Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in England on August 30, 1797. Her parents were two celebrated liberal thinkers, William Godwin, a social philosopher, and Mary Wollstonecraft, a women's rights advocate. Eleven days after Mary's birth, her mother died of puerperal fever. Four motherless years later, Godwin married Mary Jane Clairmont, bringing her and her two children into the same household with Mary and her half-sister, Fanny. Mary's idolization of her father, his detached and rational treatment of their bond, and her step-mother's preference for her own children created a tense and awkward home. Mary's education and free-thinking were encouraged, so it should not surprise us today that at the age of sixteen she ran off with the brilliant, nineteen-year old and unhappily married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley became her ideal, but their life together was a difficult one. Traumas plagued them: Shelley's wife and Mary's half-sister both committed suicide; Mary and Shelley wed shortly after he was widowed but social disapproval forced them from England; three of their children died in infancy or childhood; and while Shelley was an aristocrat and a genius, he was also moody and had little money. Mary conceived of her magnum opus, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, when she was only nineteen when Lord Byron suggested they tell ghost stories at a house party. The resulting book took over two years to write and can be seen as the brilliant creation of a powerful but tormented mind. The story of Frankenstein has endured nearly two centuries and countless variations because of its timeless exploration of the tension between our quest for knowledge and our thirst for good. Shelley drowned when Mary was only 24, leaving her with an infant and debts. Mary died in 1851 at the age of 54 from a brain tumor.
Michael Parenti (Ph.D., Yale University) is an internationally known, award-winning author, scholar, and lecturer who addresses a wide variety of political and cultural subjects. Among his recent books are Waiting for Yesterday (2013), The Face of Imperialism (2011), God and His Demons (2010), and Democracy for the Few, 9th edition (2010).Harold Bloom was born on July 11, 1930 in New York City. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Cornell in 1951 and his Doctorate from Yale in 1955. After graduating from Yale, Bloom remained there as a teacher, and was made Sterling Professor of Humanities in 1983. Bloom's theories have changed the way that critics think of literary tradition and has also focused his attentions on history and the Bible. He has written over twenty books and edited countless others. He is one of the most famous critics in the world and considered an expert in many fields. In 2010 he became a founding patron of Ralston College, a new institution in Savannah, Georgia, that focuses on primary texts. His works include Fallen Angels, Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems, Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life and The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of The King James Bible.