By Dale Stinchcomb, Assistant Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection
Frankenweek is in full swing and Houghton is participating in a Harvard-wide celebration of all things Franken-Shelley. A film series, an exhibition, and a marathon reading are just a few of the activities planned to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley’s influence is felt in other corners of the library as well. A recently acquired graphic novel by visual artist Angela Lorenz, currently on exhibit in the Keats Room, follows r.ed monde, an amorphous humanoid with a pointy head, on a journey of self-discovery.
Locked in a drawer in the artist’s studio since birth, r.ed pores over his creator’s “research collection,” searching for a sense of belonging. (Ephemera and found objects, and even interesting trash, have long served as inspiration for Lorenz.) There, r.ed stumbles across Frankenstein and identifies immediately with the nameless creature’s struggle for self-identity.
A poignant, hand-lettered passage from Frankenstein is one of two illustrations by Lorenz donated to Houghton in honor of Joan Nordell, a longtime friend of both the artist and the library. The other drawing, a watercolor of a graffitied lira note from Lorenz’s ephemera collection, bears an obvious resemblance to the Frankenstein monster. It is one of over 250 paintings of vintage material culture that appear throughout the book.
A sculpture of r.ed accompanies each copy and doubles as a clasp. The 300 r.ed “clones” in existence are considerably less hideous than Shelley’s progeny, though they sometimes channel their inner Boris Karloff on Instagram.
Join us (and r.ed) on Halloween for all-day reading of Frankenstein starting at 9 AM at Houghton Library. Visit frankenweek.org for more details.