Frankenstein’s Garden

article by Zoë Disher , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning to identify cultural aspects of literary texts so that I can better understand intertextual references.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify cultural contexts of a famous literary text.
  • I can identify intertextual references.
  • I can make connections to other famous literary texts.

Essential knowledge:

For more information on context, view The School Magazine’s video on Context.

For more information about related texts, view The School Magazine’s video on Intertextuality.

Oral language and communication

Display the following questions on the board:

Who is Frankenstein’s monster?

Where have you seen references to Frankenstein’s monster before? (e.g. movies, tv shows, books, Halloween costumes)

What words/phrases do you associate with Frankenstein’s monster?

Give students one minute to complete a low stakes writing task answering the questions. If students haven’t come across Frankenstein before, have them write who they think Frankenstein is.

Once the minute is up, display an appropriate image of Frankenstein’s monster on the board and discuss answers. Give a summary of the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. An example is below:

Frankenstein is a classic novel about a man called Victor Frankenstein, who uses body parts from different people to build a monster. He gives life to the monster, but the monster is lonely and angry and causes a great deal of destruction.

Understanding text:

Prior to allowing students to view Frankenstein’s Garden, read the title and ask them to predict what the article might be about. Read the article as a class, or, if you have a digital subscription, listen to the audio recording.

Ask students:

Why did the author connect plant grafting to the novel Frankenstein? (Connecting two different plants is similar to connecting body parts.)

Explain that this literary connection is called intertextuality.

Pose the following two thesis statements to the class. If students strongly agree with the question, have them move to the front of the classroom. If they strongly disagree, they can move to the back of the classroom. Anyone who has a more balanced opinion can move somewhere in the middle, closer to the agree or disagree side depending on their thoughts. After each statement, select students from each side to discuss their thinking.

Statement one:

A reader needs to know of the novel Frankenstein to understand the article.

Statement two:

Your knowledge of Frankenstein’s monster elevated your understanding of the article.

Note: Students may debate whether it’s necessary to know of Frankenstein to understand the article, as there is a short summary of the novel at the beginning of the article.

Creating text:

Once students have returned to their seats, ask if they know of any other classic literature like Frankenstein. Write them on the board. Some examples that students may be aware of:

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carol)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)

The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

Heidi (Johanna Spyri)

Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)

Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)

Ask students to identify examples from real life that they can connect to one of these books. This could be a text-to-world connection like Frankenstein’s Garden or a text-to-self connection. For example, vampire bats could connect to Dracula (text-to-world), or a student’s grandparent might have a hidden garden in their backyard (text-to-self). Have students write the title of the classic novel and their connection on a sticky note or index card.

Extension: Students can write their own article about their literary connection. Research may be required for text-to-world connections.

Assessment for/as learning:

Students help set up a display of the sticky notes or index cards. They can sort the connections into groups – for example, text-to-self connections on one side and text-to-world connections on another, or connections that relate to the same classic novel grouped together. Discuss the connections as a class and ask if their knowledge of the classic novel helped understand each connection.