Making A Perfect Monster––Together

Vimala Pasupathi (Hofstra University)

This paper will discuss my experience collaborating with special collections librarians at two institutions (my university and the New York Public Library) and with the students enrolled in a freshman seminar called “Reading Literature in the Digital Age.” My course aims to show students how the “future” of reading allows us to dig much deeper into the past; in particular, we’ll be using digital tools and online archives to think about print culture and the technologies associated with the reading and writing of literature. The paper will focus primarily on the process of collaboration with new students and experienced librarians, using the metaphor provided by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a text that will anchor the course’s discussions and the contribution the paper makes to the conference. It takes as its basic premise that faculty at smaller institutions should not work like Victor Frankenstein, putting together their courses in isolation from the larger world of scholars and programmers who are increasingly involved in the production of literary texts; additionally, it argues for the benefits of using even small-scale special collections with new students and designing projects that allow them to take a leading role in showcasing those collections online.