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50th anniversary
  • Celebrations begin to commemorate 50 years of the University of Dundee

    2017
  • The University of Dundee becomes a fully independent institution under the terms of the Royal Charter.

    1967
  • Ordinances issued in 1897 made University College form part of St Andrews. and establish a Faculty of Medicine.

    1897
  • The Deed formally creating University College Dundee was signed by founders Miss Mary Ann Baxter and her cousin Dr John Boyd Baxter.

    1881

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein - the Dundee connection

  • date

    Fri, 10 Feb 2017

  • Running Time

    00:04:08

As “blank and dreary” as the northern shores of the Tay might have been to the young Mary Godwin, her time spent in and around Dundee would prove pivotal to her literary legacy.

Episode Transcript

I'm Peggy Hughes and welcome to the University of Dundee and our weekly look at the moments in history – both of the institution and the city – that have created the vibrant, dynamic place that we’re now part of. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University becoming independent, we examine the people, discoveries and decisions that have brought us to 2017 as Scotland’s University of the Year and one of the world’s Top 200 universities, delivering teaching and research that is helping to transform lives across society. In the years to come we have ambitions to be the top University in Scotland in everything we do.

As “blank and dreary” as the northern shores of the Tay might have been to the young Mary Godwin, her time spent in and around Dundee would prove pivotal to her literary legacy.

Mary Godwin became Mary Shelley. And the fanciful notions that inhabited her young imagination while recuperating from illness would eventually manifest themselves in Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus.
Mary arrived in Dundee in 1812, around the age of 15. Her family thought Scotland would provide a better environment than London to recover, and she stayed with the Baxter family at South Baffin Street.

The School of Humanities at the University of Dundee have conducted research into Shelley’s formative years in the city. Brief they might have been, but there can be little doubt that being displaced to an alien environment would have had an effect on what was clearly an exceptional teenage mind.
The School curated a series of events centred on those years as part of the national Being Human Festival in 2015. These included a walking tour featuring the Baxter house on South Baffin, ghost writing competitions, a play, and the production of a brand new comic, Frankenstein Begins!

The team was shortlisted for the Stephen Fry public engagement award and selected by the funding body for inclusion in last Summer's "best of show" event at Senate House in London.

Dr Daniel Cook, lecturer in English called Mary Shelley “the mother of modern science fiction” and pointed to the changes happening in the city during her time of residence, “A time of substantial civic and creative regeneration, that she said stirred ‘the airy flights’ of her young imagination.”

To create the events, there was the benefit of Shelley’s own written thoughts on her time in and around the city – and those northern shores of the Tay.

“Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then - but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions of the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered.”
On her return to London in 1814, she became reacquainted with Percy Shelley. The couple began their journey through Europe, accompanied by her half-sister.

Further inspiration came from her experiences of Germany and Switzerland, with much of the classic-in-waiting located around Geneva. The trio had spent the summer of 1816 with Lord Byron and John Polidori near that city. Apart from the locality, the talk of the occult, galvanism, and the sweeping industrialisation of the time were also part of the overarching picture forming in Mary’s head. Byron had suggested that they each write a ghost story and here the monster and his creator began to take shape.

She began work on Frankenstein at the age of 18. It was unleashed on the world when it was published in London two years later, and has been part of the culture ever since.

There was no name on the first edition, leading to speculation that Percy Shelley had a hand in the writing, but when the second edition appeared in 1823, the name Mary Shelley was there.

Tune in next week for another podcast from the series, subscribe to Itunes to get the podcast delivered to your inbox and check out the website – www.dundee.ac.uk/50 for extra material

Peggy Hughes

Peggy

Peggy manages Literary Dundee, a University of Dundee initiative that celebrates books, reading and writing. Literary Dundee was included in the List Magazine's Hot 100, their annual celebration of the figures who've contributed most to the cultural landscape during the year. She has worked for the University since 2013 and before that worked with literary organisations such as the Scottish Poetry Library and the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust. Peggy works with books in her spare time too - interviewing authors at events and festivals, talking about books on the radio and other platforms. She sits on the board of the Craigmillar Literacy Trust and Highlight Arts, and when not reading or talking about books, enjoys walks, Scrabble, tweed, singing tunelessly, and cake. Peggy was listed at number 51 in the Courier's Impact 100 2016 (their 'annual review of the people who have done the most — good or bad — to affect life in Courier country') for services to Dundee's cultural life.

All podcasts

  • Celebrations begin to commemorate 50 years of the University of Dundee

    2017
  • The University of Dundee becomes a fully independent institution under the terms of the Royal Charter.

    1967
  • Ordinances issued in 1897 made University College form part of St Andrews. and establish a Faculty of Medicine.

    1897
  • The Deed formally creating University College Dundee was signed by founders Miss Mary Ann Baxter and her cousin Dr John Boyd Baxter.

    1881
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