Diodati Weekend – Haunted Humanities; Write a Ghost Story, Win $200!

Haunted Humanities

This year is the bicentennial year of the publication of one of the most influential and horrifying novels ever written – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To celebrate this moment, scholars and artists have joined together to organize an international  event – Frankenreads – during which universities and cultural centers from around the world will launch readings, viewings, and intellectual symposiums related to the work. You can see the schedule here and you will notice that Bucknell University is listed as one of the venues for events.

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Let me introduce you to Bucknell’s Frankenstein event The Haunted Humanities scheduled for Friday October 26th, from 6pm until Midnight! Where? The Great Room of the Hildreth-Mirza Hall.  Students will be fed, terrified, and possibly awarded $200.00 for the winning ghost story contest!

The Diodati Weekend is famous in literary history as the seminal moment in the creation of some of the greatest horror fiction to be written in the western world. The year 1816 was known as “the year without a summer” as it was one of the stormiest ever on record. It rained incessantly (sound familiar?) due to a recent volcanic eruption in Indonesia, spreading thunderstorms and windy, dark conditions across Europe. A small group of tourists had gathered in Byron’s residence, the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva – (incorrectly) reported to have been where the great writer, John Milton, had stayed. The tourists would themselves become famous – they included Mary Godwin (not yet married to Percy Shelley), Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori (Byron’s personal physician and possibly his lover), and Clare Claremont (half-sister to Mary and the lover of Byron). Together they would spend the sodden and gloomy summer, waiting for the clouds to dissipate. In the meantime, they decided to spend an evening by having a ghost story contest. Each member of the group wrote a short ghost tale and the resulting texts saw the conception of Frankenstein as well as Byron’s fragment “The Vampyre” soon to be pirated by Polidori and published under his own name. This work would eventually introduce and popularize the modern species of vampire that we now recognize in figures like Dracula.

The Bucknell event, Haunted Humanities, would take this weekend as its inspiration and set the stage for our own Diodati gathering. We will enjoy a dramatic reading from Mary Shelley’s book, a brief discussion by Professor Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks about the science of Frankenstein, and a fireside ghost story session. Interested students can write a ghost story of approximately 7-10 pages and submit it to me (mcdayter@bucknell.edu) by October 15th. The submissions will be judged by Professors Joe Scapellato and Virginia Zimmerman for the $200.00 prize! But you don’t have to write a story to attend! Just come for the thrill of it.

This event has been funded and co-sponsored by The Humanities Center, and the Departments of French, Classics, Religion and English.

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