Tag Archives: Frankenstein

It’s alive. IT’S ALIVE!

Here’s one way to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818: I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology. It’s published by Athabasca University Press, and it’s available in hardcover, paperback, and open-access PDF.

To order, see Indigo, Amazon, or UBC Press (AUP’s distributor).

To read the open-access PDF, see AU Press’ webpage for the book and click the Free PDF tab.

Briefly, the book argues, first, that Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein effectively reinvented the meaning of the word “technology” for modern English; and, second, that Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its adaptations in Canadian pop culture (by icons like David Cronenberg, William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, and Deadmau5) have popularized this Frankensteinian sense of technology.

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The Medium Is The Monster Mix

At Mixcloud, I’ve shared a mix that’s a sonic supplement to my book The Medium Is the Monster (Athabasca University Press, 2018).

The songs and tracks mixed here all adapt Frankenstein and are discussed as such in the book. The mix follows approximately the same sequence as the book, progressing from chapter to chapter, featuring the specific songs mentioned in each. The early chapters discuss hip hop, reggae, funk, and Afro-Futurist music (e.g. Maestro Fresh Wes, Dr Octagon, Janelle Monáe); the seventh chapter focuses on EDM (e.g. Deadmau5 and The Paladin Project). The mix also includes some alternative rock, folk, and country songs (e.g. Iggy & The Stooges, Neil Young, Corb Lund). Overall, most of the content is Canadian, given the focus of the book.

Here’s a complete track list, too (since Mixcloud only reveals the track list during playback).

Introduction

  • Jon Stewart & Samantha Bee, The Daily Show, 10 Feb. 2009 (sample) 00:00

Chapter 1

  • Eric B & Rakim, “Paid in full” (seven minutes of music – the Coldcut remix) 00:36

Chapter 2

  • Dr Octagon (aka Kool Keith), “Real raw” 04:08
  • Janelle Monáe, “Good morning midnight” (interlude) 06:04
  • Janelle Monáe, “Dance or die” 07:24
  • Wolfgang Rübsam & Capella Istropolitana, Toccato and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach 10:37
  • Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Cryptkickers, “The Monster Mash” (sample) 13:18
  • Dr Octagon (aka Kool Keith), “Wild and crazy” 13:33
  • Madness, “One step beyond” (sample) 17:35
  • Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, “Frankenstein ska” 17:54
  • Parliament, “Prelude to The Clones of Dr Funkenstein” 20:27
  • Parliament, “Dr Funkenstein” 22:05
  • Armand van Helden, “Witch Doktor” 27:44
  • Michael Jackson feat. Vincent Price, “Thriller” 32:01
  • Rockwell feat. Michael Jackson, “Somebody’s watching me” 37:03
  • Maestro Fresh Wes, “Let your backbone slide” 40:38
  • Handsome Boy Modeling School feat. Grand Puba & Sadat X, “Once Again (Here To Kick One For You)” 45:01
  • Ice Cube, “Dr Frankenstein” 48:47

Chapter 4

  • Iggy & The Stooges, “Search and destroy” 52:55

Chapter 5

  • Skinny Puppy, “Draining faces” 56:20
  • Front 242, “Masterhit” 1:01:06
  • Messiah, “Beyond good and evil” 1:07:53
  • Messiah, “You’re going insane” 1:12:40
  • DJ Luna-C, “Mind of a lunatic” 1:15:34
  • Ed Brown, “Industrial” (P.B.K. remix) 1:21:14
  • Neuromancer, “Pennywise” 1:26:15
  • Wippenberg, “Neurodancer” 1:29:49

Chapter 7

  • Foremost Poets, “Moon-raker” (Paladin mix) (sample) 1:33:49
  • Brainbug, “Nightmare” (Sinister strings mix) 1:34:11
  • The Paladin Project, “The panic room / Claustrophobia” 1:40:42
  • The Paladin Project, “The Palloween anthem” 1:45:50
  • The Paladin Project, “Darkness took me” 1:50:17
  • The Paladin Project, “Afraid of the dark” 1:53:30
  • Deadmau5, “Cthulhu sleeps” 1:56:01
  • Deadmau5, “Dr Funkenstein” 2:01:11
  • Deadmau5, “Dr Funkenstein” (Sage remix) 2:03:36
  • Deadmau5, “Dr Funkenstein” (Zoltan Kontes & Jerome Robins stripped mix) 2:05:30
  • Deadmau5, “Dr Funkenstein” (Danny Jay remix) 2:07:53
  • Deadmau5, “Complications” 2:12:19
  • Deadmau5, “Ghosts ‘n’ stuff” 2:14:35
  • Deadmau5, “Moar ghosts ‘n’ stuff” 2:19:22
  • Deadmau5 feat. Chris James, “The Veldt” 2:23:39

Chapter 8

  • Neil Young, “Vampire blues” 2:33:48
  • Corb Lund, “Roughest neck around” 2:37:48
  • Corb Lund, “Gettin’ down on the mountain” 2:40:50
Link

“Happy Birthday, Frankenstein!”

Athabasca University Press’ Open Book Blog has a new post about the Frankenstein bicentennial: “Happy Birthday, Frankenstein!” 
The post curates a sampling of links to just a few of the Canadian Frankenstein adaptations discussed in my book #TheMediumIsTheMonster: from Larissa Lai’s writing and Matt MacFadzean’s playwriting, to the music of Deadmau5 and more.

This blog posts makes a great multimedia supplement to the book, for readers who may not know of some of these works.

#TheMediumIsTheMonster: forthcoming April 2018

when the designer of your book’s cover (detail shown here) knocks it out of the park on the first try.
#TheMediumIsTheMonster: forthcoming April 2018 from @au_press.

Frankenstein as a figure of globalization

“Frankenstein as a figure of globalization in Canada’s postcolonial popular culture,” an article I published in Continuum 25.5 (2011), is now available for Open Access, via Athabasca U’s institutional repository. The abstract and downloadable PDF (post-print full text, but not publisher’s version) are available at http://hdl.handle.net/2149/3450.

Applying the popular ‘technological’ interpretation of Frankenstein to the problematic of globalization, these Canadian films [Videodrome, Possible Worlds, The Corporation] criticize the corporate institution, borrowing from Shelley’s story and its popular progeny to comment, with self-reflexive irony, on communication media and their instrumentality to globalization, its hegemonic naturalization, and the ‘imperialist aspirations’ of transnational conglomerates.

Alberta Diary blog quotes Frankenstein re: labour legislation

Well, the Alberta Diary blog is quoting Young Frankenstein, in this case.

Blogger David Climenhaga captions a screen shot of Mel Brooks’ version of the iconic “creation scene” as follows: “Premier Alison Redford, in lab coat, centre, and her Progressive Conservative cabinet get ready to bring Consolidated Bargaining to life.”

The reference to Brooks’ parody is itself significant: it signals the blogger’s critical assessment of Consolidated Bargaining as farcical.

It’s for samplings like this that I like my research subject: it turns up in lots of places, in unexpected ways, if often to tell a certain specific story (“the machines designed to serve mankind instead became the executioners of civilization…”). Historically, Frankenstein has tended more to figure labour, especially the working class, than government or business, but of course that’s because the traditional, corporate news media serve and revere the latter, and dismiss and revile the former. Perhaps the rise of “citizen journalism,” as a more diversified supplement to traditional corporate news, is likewise diversifying the possibilities for how journalism makes and spins intertextual references like this one.

Footnote to “Frankenstein as a figure of globalization”: corporate monstrosity in The Grapes of Wrath

In my latest article on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I write that “the Depression prompted … Frankensteinian representations of corporate business” that resonate today, amidst an economic crisis that has prompted references to the Depression. To identify scenes and tropes as Frankensteinian, I rely on Chris Baldick’s theory of Frankenstein’s “skeleton story” as the core of the story’s innumerable popular adaptations, of its status as what Baldick calls a paradoxically “modern myth” (tk). The “skeleton story” consists essentially of just two complementary plot points: 1) a man makes a creature; 2) the creature revolts and runs amok. For evidence of Frankensteinian representations of corporate business in the Depression era, I cited one example, a 1930 piece of journalism called “Frankenstein, Inc.” But I have more recently found a highly significant literary example – one I wished I had known about before the article went to press (hence this footnote) – it’s none other than John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath, the major literary statement on the Depression, a novel I’m only now reading for the first time.

20120812-162645.jpgThe novel tells the Depression-era story of the Joad family’s forced exodus from Oklahoma to California, and tells this story in a pointedly dialectical form, alternating between chapters about the Joads’ specific scenes and doings, and chapters about the general contexts and crises that condition the Joads’ particular story. The fifth chapter – a general chapter – describes the manouevres, manipulations, and machinations used by the “owner men” to get the “tenant men” off their lands in the process of mechanizing and automating agriculture – turning it into agribusiness. Steinbeck describes the owner men talking about the eviction of the tenants, and the reclamation of the land, with reference to figures of monstrosity that mystify the relations of corporate production and absolve the owner men of responsibility:

If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, the Bank – or the Company – needs – wants – insists – must have – as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. … And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger than they were. … these creatures don’t breathe air, don’t eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. (41)

When the tenant men counter that “the bank is only made of men,” the owner men tell them they’re wrong: “No, you’re wrong there – quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. … The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it” (43, my emphasis).

Following this scene of the owner men rationalizing (and reifying) corporate business – relieving them of responsibility for its cruel externalities – Steinbeck describes an encounter between a soon-to-be-evicted tenant and the driver of a company tractor that is the specific instrument of the “monstrous” corporate reclamation of the farmlands from the tenants: “The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and mouth, he was part of the monster, a robot in the seat. … The driver could not control it” (45). The tenant who talks to this driver fails to persuade him of his inhuman betrayal of the families he’s mechanically displaced, but ultimately vows, “There’s some way to stop this. It’s not like lightning or earthquakes. We’ve got a bad thing made by men, and by God that’s something we can change” (50, my emphasis).

The chapter thus adapts the “skeleton story” of Frankenstein as one of the premises for Steinbeck’s novel: in both the unsuccessfully reassuring words of the owner men and the horrified reactions of the tenant men, the corporate business model is a destructive, superhuman monster – made by humans, but now beyond humans’ control, running amok and wreaking havoc, economic and environmental. This certainly isn’t the only cultural or intertextual premise of Steinbeck’s stern and sweeping saga, but it is a conspicuous and telling one, eatablished very early in the plot of one of America’s definitive critical accounts of the corporate-dominated market society, the robber barons accountable for it, and the multitudes of workers exploited and abandoned by by it.

Works Cited
Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.
McCutcheon, Mark A. “Frankenstein as a figure of globalization in Canada’s popular culture.” Continuum 25.5 (2011): 731-42.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath (1939). New York: Penguin, 1976.