On behalf of the University’s Faculty and the 2017 Common Reading Program, we welcome you to Washington University! We’re very excited you will soon be joining us, and we are busy preparing for your arrival.
The Common Reading Program initiates your intellectual college experience and highlights the essence of your education – habits of inquiry and debate that underlie effective citizenship in communities beyond the self. Throughout the first semester, you will encounter themes from the book in classes, discussions, and on-campus programming.
On Friday, August 25th, as part of the 15th annual Common Reading Program, you will be participating in what we anticipate will be a dynamic and thought-provoking discussion of the book, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. At age 19, Mary Shelley produced a novel that would shape our cultural narrative for two centuries. You’ve no doubt heard expressions such as ‘frankenfoods’ that refer to genetically modified crops or eaten Franken Berry cereal. You’ve seen film depictions like the Colin Clive classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, Tim Curry (and more recently, Laverne Cox) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even last year’s Apple holiday commercial.
So much awaits you in the world of knowledge that you are about to enter. For some, you will learn about technologies like CRISPR that allow us to manipulate genes. For others, you will explore the ideas of the humanities that inform our perceptions of what it means to be human. Frankenstein crosses all of these boundaries: we could think of no better introduction for you to the life of the mind.
In your studies here, we’ll also be talking to you about the great problems of the world. Those underlying our approach to identity are certainly among the greatest facing society. But so are climate change, inequality, hunger, international conflict, and disease. This sounds heavy, but it isn’t for us because we believe in the energy and optimism that you are bringing to all the great work you will do at WashU and beyond.
Welcome, Bears. Let’s get started.
Provost and Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor
Departments of Chemistry and Medicine
Washington University in St. Louis