Summer Reading Assignment 2020

Dear New Crown Students,

The staff, faculty, and I look forward to your arrival. We have prepared an assignment to help get you ready for the Core class that you’ll be taking in the Fall of 2020.

Your summer assignment has two parts.

Please do both Part I and Part 2 of the Summer Assignment. Bring your essay and your eFast Log to class on the first day. 


Part I: Reading Prompts – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (choose one) 


Everyone must read this same edition because of its valuable annotations: Frankenstein, MIT Press, Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds, ed. David H. Guston et al., 2017.  You are free to order a print copy of the book online or use this free version: Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds


After reading Frankenstein, please choose ONE of the following two prompts, and write a two-page paper (min. 500 words). Please have your writing assignment ready the first day of class, October 1. You will be asked to submit it online to Canvas after class.  Give it a compelling title, and use a standard, 12-point font. Be sure to use at least two quotations to support your analysis and interpretation, and feel free to refer to the footnotes.  


Prompt 1 


Victor expresses a complex mixture of remorse and responsibility for the effects of his creation. 


“During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blameable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty; but there was another paramount to that. My duties towards my fellow-creatures had greater claims to my attention, because they included a greater proportion of happiness or misery” (181-182). 


“...Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness in tranquility, and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries” (182). 


Considering the quotes above, respond to one of the following questions. 


  • Do you share Victor’s view of scientific innovation and invention?  


  • Do you agree with Victor when he says, “how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (35)? 


  • Contrast Victor’s view of individual wellbeing and happiness with his view of collective wellbeing and happiness. Feel free to refer to situations you have observed during the COVID-19 pandemic: from individual to social and even global effects.

Prompt 2 

The novel records the imagined social effects of the Creature’s abandonment by Victor--in his having no mother or father, no kin, community, childhood, or history and his struggle to raise himself through 

reading books and observing others.  Victor at first agrees to make the Creature what he desires--a female mate like himself--and then changes his mind and violently destroys it. 


Mary Shelley was also orphaned when her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft--author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1792)--died shortly after birthing her. Shelley asks in her Introduction, “How [did] I, then a young girl, [come] to think of and to dilate upon so very hideous an idea?” 


Slavery was an institution during the time Frankenstein was written, and it was justified by a complex of social, economic, and political-legal ideologies--including counting African Americans as three-fifths of a white male, and separating family members from one another  (see footnotes, pp. 82; 102).  


Please reflect on one of the following questions, noting the social and political relations in the novel—who has power and authority and who is excluded and abjected. 


  • Is the Creature a metaphor for degraded “others” who suffer misrecognition, abjection, and exclusion from social relations and institutions?  (Example: footnote 12, p. 81.)


  • What does it mean to be human--or inhuman? The Creature argues to Victor: “Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous” (80).  Discuss the prevalence of white supremacy and Eurocentrism in the early 19th century in Frankensteinand how similar ideologies and practices are criticized by the Black Lives Matter movement. 


  • Frankenstein narrates its story through Victor, the Creature, Walton, and Clerval. Is it significant that no woman is ever given a position as narrator? What does it note about women’s confinement to the family (e.g. the sexless, sister-to-become-wife Elizabeth stays home, along with Caroline, nurturing daughter and chaste wife; Justine the servant is executed)? 


Part II: eFast Log (handwritten).  Your instructor will explain how to submit on day 1.

Example: photograph pages and upload to Canvas.  


Choose a 24-hour period, and record its date and time in your handwritten Log. Begin your Fast after you are disconnected from all digital devices. In your Log, record the details of your eFast--and what changes you experience in your routine, your expectations, your social relations, and your mindset. 


Do not text, email, or access the Internet, and do not post to, or view, social media, gaming sites, or use cell phones, computers, pads, tablets, or any other Internet-connected device (FitBit, AppleWatch, etc.); no content streaming (NetFlix, etc.), and no television or radio.


During the fast, you may read non-electronic media—print books, articles, newspapers, magazines, etc.


Feel free to let your eFast log double as a “Pandemic Diary,” making note of any experiences in that 24 hour period that are related to your experience of life during COVID-19..  


Hint: Be sure to tell your family and friends in advance that you will be offline for 24 hours, so they don’t worry about your digital absence. 


On the first day of class, you will share a highlight from your Log with your peers.


Enjoy the reading and the adventure.  Happy Summer Assignment!

Looking forward to meeting you in person,

Manel Camps, Provost, Crown College