You SHOULD…Read: Frankenstein and Black Skin, White Masks

“I recommend reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) together.  Shelley was an anti-colonialist who was also concerned with the great question of what it means to be a human being, especially as posed by the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  The novel raises the problem of taking responsibility for what one creates and the damage that occurs from failing to do so.  She raises, as well, the perspective of the created, the Creature, whose existential struggle against his monstrosity is epic.  Fanon examines a similar question from the perspective of those created from colonialism, enslavement, and its accompanying racism.  Written when he was 25 years old, it places him in conversation with the precocious Shelley, who wrote her great work when she was 19.  These books offer the prescience and intellectual capacity of youth and the importance of speaking to the human condition across the ages.   As both show, maturity requires not imitation but realizing the question one must pose for subsequent generations.   Failure to do such leaves little recourse but to burn in the cleansing force of fire or collapse in the despair of tears.  And what might such question be but the creation of conditions for living embodiments of freedom?”


-Lewis Gordon,
Professor of Philosophy
University of Connecticut