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13lecture1780frankenstein09SU - Summer2009 AK/HUMA17806....

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1 School of Arts and Letters Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies Summer 2009 AK/HUMA 1780 6.0A Stories in Diverse Media Monster Obsessions: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein I am assuming, if this is your first time reading the source text for the Frankenstein story, that the novel was not exactly what you were expecting. Before reading this book, what was your association to the name Frankenstein? The monster, yes? As you no doubt noticed in your reading, the name Frankenstein does not refer to the monster with bolts in his neck. Instead, it refers to his creator (without bolts), the scientist/scholar who fashioned the fiend, as he will later be called in the novel, from an assortment of dead body parts. Gruesome. But I am also guessing that the language, the subject matter, and the characterization also were perhaps not what you expected either, or at least, not typical of what you might enjoy reading. What is with all of those sublime mountains anyway? Or, Frankenstein’s overblown and emotional responses to things? Why is it that “no one can conceive the anguish he suffers,” over and over and over again. His responses are always heightened and extreme. He is always having the most horrible experience, living the most tormented life, or creating the most hideous creature imaginable. Truth be told, Victor Frankenstein is the over dramatic, emotionally draining friend that you avoid whenever you can. You see him/her coming and you run the other way. I am guessing you might have felt while you were reading, "please, just get over it and do something."
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2 Well, part of this melodramatic or heightened response to things is a function of the time period in which the novel was written. At the start of the nineteenth century— now remember we have discussed the end of the nineteenth century quite a bit, so the people I’ll talk about today are the precursors to authors such Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Bernard Shaw—but at the start of the nineteenth century, there was a general trend in the cultural material of the day to react against the order, rationalism, and seeming objectivity of the Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century. As the rhythms of history go, Romanticism is one of the reactionary periods, much like the Modernist. As you know, both Wilde and James were reacting against the conservative Victorians from the middle of the nineteenth century. The Romantics were rebelling against what came before them: the Age of Reason in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, initiated by thinkers such Immanual Kant who popularized the Latin phrase sapare aude or "dare to know." First we need to set the stage, so to speak, so you know what the Romantics were reacting against. The Enlightenment generated an intellectual movement in Western Europe that emphasized reason and science in philosophy, in the study of human culture, and the natural world. Enlightenment thinkers modeled many of their ideas on the ancient Greeks (such as Plato and Aristotle) and the Romans who grew to prominence just after them. The Greeks and Romans of antiquity, meaning from about
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