On January 30, juniors Lexa Brenner, Lance Mayhue, Westen Mulqueen and Harris Podell presented their papers at the 2017 academic colloquium Frankenstein 200 Years Later, hosted by The Oakridge School. More than 200 students from 14 schools submitted papers. Brenner, Mayhue, Mulqueen and Podell were among the 75 chosen to present their papers in thematically organized session. Zoe DeRobertis served as a discussant at the colloquium. As the discussion leader for a group of presenters, she read three papers and posed questions to those authors.
All FWCD juniors read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley during the second quarter of this year for their AP Literature and Composition class. The students were then assigned an essay over the book by their teachers—Catherine Collins and Spencer Smith—who offered the opportunity for students to submit their work to the colloquium.
The students represented FWCD brilliantly. “Their papers were insightful and well-developed and their presentations were articulate and engaging,” Collins said. “Not only did students present their papers, but they also fielded questions about their interpretations of the novel and participated in group discussions with students, teachers, university professors and administrators in their sessions."
Click on the links below to read the students’ papers:
Brenner wrote her essay on the moral and ethical issues present in Frankenstein, following the prompt: “Shelley is clearly dramatizing fundamental ethical problems in this novel. (These ethical problems include, but are not exclusive to, specific moral problems—ethics is even more fundamental than morals, usually.) Identify no less than two of those problems or conflicts, and discuss how (or whether or not) the development of the action offers resolutions to these problems.”
She chose this prompt because she was interested in analyzing how Victor Frankenstein’s idea of right and wrong changed throughout the novel, and how his conscience influenced his actions. “I liked seeing how his character evolved throughout the book,” Brenner said.
For Brenner, who enjoys writing, the process of writing for the colloquium was more in-depth. “When I’m writing a paper, I generally have a few people read it through just to see what they would change or edit. Usually, I’m fine on my own, but with this assignment, Mrs. Collins was especially helpful to me,” she said. “I struggled a few times with trying to clarify my argument, and it was her instrumental assistance that ultimately resulted in a clearer, more cohesive essay.”
This particular essay helped challenge Brenner’s writing skills. “I was forced to think differently and analyze deeper, allowing me to gain a new perspective on the novel as a whole,” she said.
Brenner saw the colloquium as a way to build on her skillset. “Presenting my paper was a great opportunity to share my work and publicly present my writing. I gained some valuable experience as a presenter and also learned about other writers’ perspectives,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity Mrs. Collins and The Oakridge School have given me.”
Podell’s paper used the 2003 prompt from the AP Literature test: "According to critic Northrop Frye, ‘Tragic heroes are so much the highest points in their human landscape that they seem the inevitable conductors of the power about them, great trees more likely to be struck by lightning than a clump of grass. Conductors may of course be instruments as well as victims of the divisive lightning.’ Select a novel or play in which a tragic figure functions as an instrument of the suffering of others. Then write an essay in which you explain how the suffering brought upon others by that figure contributes to the tragic vision of the work as a whole."
He chose that prompt because he saw the potential in the main character, Victor Frankenstein, to be similar to a tragic hero. “I then found different examples in the novel that would help me decide if I believed him to be a tragic hero or not,” Podell said. “From my examples, I came up with my thesis and then outlined the body paragraphs using my examples and my own commentary on them. My conclusion connected Frankenstein to Macbeth to show their similarities and differences since Macbeth is a classic example of a tragic hero.”
Collins mentored Podell as well, helping him finalize the edits before submitting the essay to the colloquium. “I ultimately submitted my essay because we had already written them for the class, and I felt like I had put lots of time and energy into the essay,” he said. ”I was proud of my work. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my work with people outside of the FWCD community. I have never had the chance to do something like this before, so I was excited share my paper and see other students' presentations from around the DFW area.”
Mulqueen’s essay revolved around a timed writing prompt that Collins had chosen for him about how nature has an impact on the overall theme of the book. “Because this was a timed writing, I had to think about the relationship between the book Frankenstein and the natural environment,” Mulqueen said. “From there, I crafted a thesis and an outline for the essay, and I wrote off of that skeleton. The challenge of a timed write is that I had to plan, write, edit and finalize the piece all in 45 minutes. This is somewhat stressful, but it is always a fun challenge.”
After the timed write, Mulqueen was interested in submitting the essay to the colloquium. Collins helped him edit the piece. “It is such an honor to present this piece to other high school students because it gives me a chance to explain my thought process and interpretation of the book Frankenstein, he said.