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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Anglo-German Cosmopolitanism at the Villa Diodati in 1816

21 January 2020

Time: 6:00pm
Speaker: Maximiliaan van Woudenberg
Venue: ArtsOne Lecture Theatre


Anglo-German Cosmopolitanism at the Villa Diodati in 1816: Exploring ‘German’ Inspiration and Influence on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

After a stormy night of reading German ghost stories at the Villa Diodati in Summer 1816, Lord Byron proposed to his guests that ‘each write a ghost story’. It is well known that Mary Shelley wrote her famous novel Frankenstein as her submission for this ghost-storytelling contest. Lesser known is how these German ghost stories inspired the composition of Mary Shelley’s famous novel. This talk explores three areas of German inspiration and influence on Shelley’s Frankenstein: 1) the collection of now-mostly-forgotten German ghost stories read by the Byron-Shelley circle; 2) the German origins of the popular magic lantern ghost-shows that inspired this collection, and; 3) the Schauerliteratur scenes of Mary Shelley’s own ‘waking nightmare’ that opened her eyes ‘in terror’ and inspired her to pick up her quill and write her English literary masterpiece, Frankenstein.


Bio: Maximiliaan van Woudenberg is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge. He is the author of Coleridge and Cosmopolitan Intellectualism 1794–1804: The Legacy of Göttingen University (2018), as well as articles and chapters on Romanticism, book history, library and reception history, Anglo-German print culture, and such Romantic-era figures as Austen, Beddoes, Byron, Coleridge, and Mary Shelley. Along with Professor Anthony Mandal, Maximiliaan is a co-editor of the online journal Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780-1840. His current research interests focus on British and German print culture and sites of information interchange and knowledge networks during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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