The Medium Is the Monster
Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology
Athabasca University Press 2018
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in CommunicationsNew Books in FilmNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network May 3, 2018 Miranda Corcoran
What do Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, media theorist Marshall McLuhan and Canadian popular culture have in common? This is the question that Mark A. McCutcheon seeks to answer in his new book, The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology, published in 2018 by Athabasca University Press. In this unique and penetrating analysis, McCutcheon argues that Shelley’s 1818 novel essentially reinvented the word “technology” for the modern age, establishing its connections with ominous notions of manmade monstrosity. In the twentieth century, this monstrous, Frankensteinian conception of technology was globalized and popularized largely through Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its numerous, diverse adaptations in Canadian popular culture. The Medium is the Monster establishes Frankenstein, and its various adaptations, as the originating intertext for a modern conceptualisation of technology that has manifested with a unique potency in Canadian pop culture, informing works as disparate as David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the fiction of Margaret Atwood, and even electronic dance music. Furthermore, McCutcheon undertakes an incisive of analysis of how Frankensteinian constructions of technology have shaped real-world discussions of science and industry, an intertextual discourse which he sees as most powerfully encapsulated in the rhetoric associated with the Alberta tar sands industry.
Over the course of the interview, McCutcheon provides some fascinating insights into changing cultural attitudes towards technology, the influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the novel’s relationship to McLuhan’s media theory, and the surprising scope of Shelley’s cultural impact.
Miranda Corcoran received her Ph.D. in 2016 from University College Cork, where she currently teaches American literature. Her research interests include Cold-War literature, genre fiction, literature and psychology, and popular culture. She has published articles on paranoia, literature, and Cold-War popular culture in The Boolean, Americana, and Transverse, and contributed a book chapter on transnational paranoia to the recently published book Atlantic Crossings: Archaeology, Literature, and Spatial Culture.