Frankenstein Is a Story About Climate Change’s Horrors

How a Massive Volcanic Eruption Spun the World Into Chaos and Helped Inspire the Famous Novel

Two hundred years ago this June, during a dreadfully cold and wet summer, Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. Since then Frankenstein has become iconic, spawning a legion of adaptations and reinterpretations. The Oxford English Dictionary even includes entries for the verb “to frankenstein,” which means to stitch something together in a grotesque fashion, and the prefix “franken-,” which means to make anything monstrous.

The novel is shorthand for the dangers of unfettered scientific progress. But the unforgettable creation scene, depicted in movies with frenzied screams of “It’s alive!” and arcing …

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“Frivolous” Humanities Helped Prisoners Survive in Communist Romania

Covertly Studying Language and Literature Connected Captives and Freed Their Minds

In a recent New York Times article on the movement to promote university majors promising higher employment and income, Anthony Carnevale, a professor at Georgetown University, sums up the utilitarian …

Mourning Prince, Ziggy Stardust … and Oedipus

Social Media Brings an Ancient Greek Twist to a Previously Private American Ritual

After Prince died my Facebook news feed filled with mourning. My friends shared the time he sang “Starfish and Coffee” with the Muppets, told stories of going to concerts at …

Can Books Build Community?

Putting California’s Inland Empire on the Literary Map

Ahtziri and I are sitting on a stone garden bench outside the church in Riverside, California, where my children take piano lessons. In her hand is a stack of papers—typed …

150 Years of Drawing ‘Wonderland’

From Woodcut Prints to Dalí Paintings, Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ Has Inspired Artists and Made Books into Art

The Mock Turtle, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum, the White Queen: Few books have given us as many memorable characters as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking …

Why Americans of All Ages Love Little Golden Books

Twelve Lively, Kid-Centric Book Covers from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

In the early 20th century, most children’s books were large, lavishly illustrated, and expensive. They were absent from the bookshelves of most American families, and enjoyed primarily in libraries and …