New Lawrence Tech paper compares Shelley’s Frankenstein and Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’

By Randi Jannette

SOUTHFIELD—Using “Frankenstein,” the famous book frequently called the world’s first science fiction novel, as a method for teaching both social studies and chemistry, is the topic of a new research paper from faculty members at Lawrence Technological University.

Five LTU faculty members, a high school teacher and a Wayne State University professor collaborated on “Frankenstein 200 Years Later: Chemistry, Literature and Pop Culture,” published in the December 2019 edition of the journal The Chemical Educator.

In Frankenstein, written in 1818 by then-20-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, a scientist uses electricity to reanimate a creature constructed from dismembered corpses. The paper describes a cross-disciplinary study, involving chemistry, engineering, literary studies, and philosophy, to use Frankenstein as a teaching tool in an advanced placement literature course.

The paper also discusses a text analysis of 89 student papers written about Frankenstein, saying that the students focused on the sad condition of the creature, using it as an allegory of discrimination. The paper also provides educators with approaches to make connections to concepts of electrochemistry through the novel.

The high school students involved in the study also attended a seminar and panel discussion on LTU’s campus called “Frankenstein Today,” which discussed key connections between Frankenstein and current superhero and sci-fi films such as Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther” and the “Avengers” series.

Collaborating in the paper were Paul Jaussen, Daniel Shargel, and Franco Delogu, faculty members in LTU’s Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Communication; Eric Meyer of the LTU Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Sibrina Collins, executive director of LTU’s Marburger STEM Center. Other co-authors were Lorri Lewis, AP English teacher at University High School Academy in Lathrup Village and Michael Scrivener, English professor at Wayne State University.

Said Jaussen: “The article is truly collaborative, reflecting the expertise of all of the authors. You can see literary history, biochemistry, ethics, pedagogical theory, textual analysis, and, perhaps most importantly, the work of student writers. It was a pleasure seeing the dialogue between the disciplines and institutions.”

Added Meyer, who participated as a faculty panelist during the seminar with the high school students: “I support my colleagues who are developing LTU’s Bachelor of Science in Technological Humanities program as well as organizing a seminar series related to this theme. Readers will see many of the relevant issues that this program is addressing and the paper will promote other academic institutions to support similar programs. Many of the engineering and science developments have profound effect on our lives and society and it is important for people working on developing new technologies to consider these humanities issues.”

Shargel, who also served as a faculty panelist discussing the contemporary relevance of Frankenstein, said: “The challenge for me was figuring out what would be interesting to say about Frankenstein. Literature is not my field, so I was aware of my own inexperience analyzing a literary text. However, there are many interesting philosophical ideas in the text, so I ended up having lots to say.”

This is the third paper Lawrence Tech faculty have published using pop culture and Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” to engage students. The first paper is available at https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jchemed.8b00206, and the second paper is available at http://chemeducator.org/bibs/0024001/24190056.html.

To read the latest paper, visit http://chemeducator.org/bibs/0024001/24190162.html.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 15 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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