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Frankenstein Day 1: Background

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Kevin Spicer

on 25 March 2013

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Transcript of Frankenstein Day 1: Background

Frankenstein: Background Information Biographical Lens Mary Shelly's Life Percy Bysshe Shelley, a famous Romantic poet, met Mary Wollstencraft Godwin when she was 15. Mary Wollstencraft, Mary Shelley's mother, died 10 days after giving birth to Mary Shelley. Mary Shelley read her mother's works over and over to, as Ann Rice once said, "come to terms with the death of her mother." Percy Bysshe Shelley was already married and had two kids when Mary Shelley became pregnant at 16. Percy Shelley was also having an affair with Mary's stepsister Clair, who was in turn having an affair with Percy's friend, the famous poet Lord Byron. Clara, Mary and Percy Shelley's first daughter, died at just two weeks of age (in 1815). Historical Lens 19th Century Before the birth of Frankenstein, history was concerned with battles and wars rather than technology. The invention of the steam engine sparked the Industrial Revolution in 1769. Science was the new frontier. Electricity was believed to be able to reanimate the dead. Luigi Galvani attached electrodes to dead frogs which stimulated the muscles in the creature's legs.
Surgeons even experimented on the corpses of convicts, trying to raise them from the dead ... Feminist Lens Feminism in the 19th Century Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was one of the first feminists.
Following her mother's death, Shelley obsessed over her mother's writing.
Mary Shelley published her novel under a pen name for she feared that people would think her husband, a famous poet and man, would get the credit and she feared it would terrify people. Traits of Romantic Literature Romantic Literature Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1840. The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience Prometheus was one of the grand figures to the Romantics. Depending on the legend one reads, Prometheus was the one who stole fire and gave it to mankind. was the one who created man. Prometheus is punished by being strapped to a rock with a crow pecking at his liver. Traits of Gothic Literature Gothic Literature A genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. + It began between 1785 and 1830 and was marked by the French Revolution and the beginnings of modern industrialism. Gothic novels produce gloomy, haggard settings adorned with decaying mansions and ghostly, supernatural spirits. Shelley set her story in contemporary times, a diversion from Gothic novels which usually venture to the Middle Ages and other far away time periods. By using the time period of her day, Shelley makes the creature and the story's events much more realistic and lifelike. Shelley also sets her story in the snow clad Alps, differing again from other Gothic novels. Alienation and Loneliness Even More Issues: Isolation leads to despair. Victor is obsessed with ambition and ignores his family as a result. Because he is unable to his balance social and intellectual habits, he undergoes emotional and physical peril. The Creature also sees itself as an outcast. Nature vs. Nurture The environment contributes to a person's nature. The affection between Caroline Frankenstein and her two adopted daughters suggests that children do not need biological parents to receive love and attention. The creature is neglected by Victor, but performs nurturing acts towards Dr. Lacey's home, showing how the environment can shape a person. Appearances vs. Reality Victor flees from his creations, their physical appearance driving him away. He doesn't take the time to see past the creature's ugly exterior and discover the human qualities the creature actually possessed. Duty and Responsibility Victor lacks a sense of responsibility or parental nurturing towards the creature He only feels the sense of duty when the creature tells him directly that he is owed a certain degree of happiness. The role of responsibility and duty takes many other forms during the novel as well. Justice vs. Injustice Themes of justice and injustice play a large role in the novel, as the author develops issues of fairness and blame. Usually those characters who take responsibility for others and for their own actions are fair and just. For example, Elizabeth pleads Justine's case in court after Justine is accused of William's murder. Victor knows the creature committed the crime, yet he does not- or cannot-reveal the creature's wrongdoing. Symbols and Motifs For a novel written by the daughter of an important feminist, Frankenstein is strikingly devoid of strong female characters. The novel is littered with passive women who suffer calmly and then expire Passive Women The motif of abortion recurs as both Victor and the monster express their sense of the monster’s hideousness. The motif appears also in regard to Victor’s other pursuits. When Victor destroys his work on a female monster, he literally aborts his act of creation, preventing the female monster from coming alive. Light and Fire Light symbolizes knowledge, discovery, and enlightenment. The natural world is a place of dark secrets, hidden passages, and unknown mechanisms; the goal of the scientist is then to reach light. Abortion Symbols Motifs Allusions to Literature Allusions to Literature Shelley alludes to the legend of Faust, who sold his soul to Mephistopholes, the devil, for forbidden knowledge. Mephistopholes would offer a "merry life" or "renewed youth" in return for the human's soul. Shelley also alludes to the story of Golem from Jewish folklore. Golem was a man made from clay, who was brought to life by a charm placed into his mouth. Golem was a noble character, playing the role of a protector. Removing the charm deanimated the creature. Golem: Mephistopheles: Modern Science Connections Modern Science Anne Mellor from UCLA says that many of our concerns about science stem from our reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, including topics like nuclear war, genetic engineering, biochemical engineering, and DNA manipulation. Science gives us the most powerful tools to control life. Today, we are able to control disease, manipulate our nature, and wage war much more efficiently than ever before. We are now able to clone organisms and create life in dishes. Archetypes in the Movie Frankenstein, the Movie Victor- The Mad Scientist The Creature- The Rejected Character Parent-Child Conflict Creator-Creation Conflict Undead Victor- The Mad Scientist Creature- The "Monster" Creator/Creation Conflict Undead Terms: Doppelganger- the idea that a living person has a ghostly double haunting him. The creature is pictured to be the doppleganger of Victor.
Frame Novel- a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, where an introductory or main narrative is presented for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories.
Allusion- a figure of speech that makes a reference to, or a representation of, people, places, events, literary work, myths, or works of art, either directly or by implication. Modern Horror The idea of the mad scientist, creating an uncontrollable monster. The idea of the living dead. The conflict between master and his creation The idea that science in the wrong hands can do terrible things. The idea of a horrible monster that frightens everyone. Core II & Intro to Lit, Spring 2013 "... what's it about?" "It's about a man's desire to create life ..." the "creation" itself doesn't happen until Chapter 4 of the 1st volume;
what's her point about Victor's search--is a hero? a villain?
the statement may be completely inaccurate--it's not really about creation at all ... "The Promises & Problems of Education ..." Victor seeks knowledge--at every turn ...;
much of the book is about his study, his learning;
in Volume 2 we get the entire "education" of the monster ...
we also see a profound lack of "social education" in many of the characters (& we see what harm that can result in) ... "... it's a story about stories ..." multiple narrative frames (stories within stories);
whose story is this, really?
Percy Shelley's "Preface";
massive pop-cultural history ...;
there are aspects of the story even it's author can't tell;
"We are the stories we tell about ourselves ..." "... the complex relationship b/t parents & children."
the relationship b/t Elizabeth, Victor, and their father ...
the relationship b/t Victor and his "son," the monster ... "... the nature of responsibility." Victor's lack of nurturing towards the creature = irresponsible?
Victor's decision to kill the creature for the good of the world = responsible?
"Here's this novel Frankenstein ..." Frankenstein Week!!!!! Frankenweenie Week?--not quite. Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror
XVII" (HABF17)
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