Frankenstein's Skeleton (Dr. Wendell Piez Lecture)

In 1816 Mary Shelley wrote a book that has become more than a classic, inscribing not only a text, but a troubling idea, indelibly into world consciousness.

Now we have computationally tractable forms of text, and it is possible to examine this novel directly, not only searching and formatting it, but also subjecting it to more peculiar interrogations: laying out the body on the table and seeing what it is made of and how put together. A great number and variety of interesting questions come up when we do this, relating not only to this text, but to the modeling, description and representation of literary texts in general, and how current text encoding technologies serve to do this (or can be made to do so better). How is a dead text brought to life? What makes a text alive or dead in the first place? It may be that (among other things) a living text shows an organic whole, an integrity of purpose in its various dimensions, layers and component parts. This is certainly the case with Shelley's Frankenstein, which proves under close examination to have a structure that is not fully understood or appreciated, even by many editors and publishers.

The audience is invited to bring printed or electronic copies of Mary Shelley's novel, in any edition. Our first question will be: where is the end of Chapter 24?

This lecture is part of a series of events on the Oakland and Greensburg campuses featuring Dr. Wendell Piez, a prominent public-sector digital humanist. Dr. Piez earned a BA in Classics (Yale) and MA and PhD degrees in English literature (Rutgers). He taught at Rutgers, worked as an early digital humanities (DH) developer at the pioneering collaborative Princeton-Rutgers Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities, and then moved to a career as an electronic text technology consultant, working with academic and non-academic clients. He continues to publish in refereed venues; he is the general editor of the academic journal Digital Humanities Quarterly (; and his work is cited widely by academic digital humanists. Dr. Piez is widely recognized as a leading authority in the academic DH community, but he is not a tenured professor at a research university; instead, his career represents an alternative path as a public-sector scholar combining research with professional consultation.

This event is part of a series of events (information on prior events available here), and is sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta (the English Honor Society at Pitt-Greensburg), Pitt-Greensburg's Academic Village, Pitt-Greensburg's Center for the Digital Text and Academic Affairs, the University Honors College (Oakland), the Humanities Center (Oakland), and DSAS Undergraduate Studies. For more information on these visits, please contact Elisa Beshero-Bondar at




Friday, February 19, 2016 - 4:00pm

Location and Address

Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning