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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein April 2, 2014; Dr. Solomon Agenda Enlightenment and Romanticism “Frankenstein”: an introduction and contextualization The story.

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Presentation on theme: "Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein April 2, 2014; Dr. Solomon Agenda Enlightenment and Romanticism “Frankenstein”: an introduction and contextualization The story."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein April 2, 2014; Dr. Solomon Agenda Enlightenment and Romanticism “Frankenstein”: an introduction and contextualization The story of becoming (or not becoming) human: learning, language, self, sympathy

2 Keywords associated with general notions of: Enlightenment late 17 th – turn of 19 th c. Order Logic Rational Method Empirical Observation Domination of nature Daring! Progress Romanticism late 18 th – mid-19 th c. Imagination Intuition Emotion Individuality Up with: Nature! Human limitation: Sublime! Boo: Urban Industrialization

3 Not an ideal Cartesian subject “I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly, that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearly sank to the ground through languor and extreme weakness” (Shelley 35)

4 Not an ideal Cartesian subject “Could he be (I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support” (Shelley 48)

5 Mary Shelley Mother: Mary Wollstonecraft (Vindication of the Rights of Men, 1790; Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792) Father: William Godwin (Enquiry concerning Political Justice, 1793) Husband: Poet Percey Shelley

6 Questions to consider In what ways does the creature’s story critique what we know of the principles of Enlightenment? Is he a Romantic figure and his maker a representative of the Enlightenment? Or does each share qualities of both?

7 Contemporary Science: animation of lifeless bodies

8 Bad Science: Frankenfoods

9

10 FRANKENSTEIN ; or, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus “or” = either/or? “or” = also known as?

11 This Prometheus looks a lot like Frankenstein

12 1831 Frontispiece

13 Promethus: Maker of Man A creature of a more exalted kind Was wanting yet, and then was Man design'd: Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast, For empire form'd, and fit to rule the rest: […] [with] Earth, but new divided from the sky, And, pliant, still retain'd th' aetherial energy: Which wise Prometheus temper'd into paste, And, mixt with living streams, the godlike image cast. (Ovid “The Creation of the World” ll )

14 Promethus: Maker of Man A creature of a more exalted kind Was wanting yet, and then was Man design'd: Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast, For empire form'd, and fit to rule the rest: […] [with] Earth, but new divided from the sky, And, pliant, still retain'd th' aetherial energy: Which wise Prometheus temper'd into paste, And, mixt with living streams, the godlike image cast. (“The Creation of the World” ll )

15 Promethus: Maker of Man A creature of a more exalted kind Was wanting yet, and then was Man design'd: Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast, For empire form'd, and fit to rule the rest: […] [with] Earth, but new divided from the sky, And, pliant, still retain'd th' aetherial energy: Which wise Prometheus temper'd into paste, And, mixt with living streams, the godlike image cast. (“The Creation of the World” ll )

16 Prometheus: Giver of Technology Prometheus came to inspect the distribution, and he found that the other animals were suitably furnished, but that man alone was naked and shoeless, and had neither bed nor arms of defence. The appointed hour was approaching when man in his turn was to go forth into the light of day; and Prometheus, not knowing how he could devise his salvation, stole the mechanical arts of Hephaistos and Athene, and fire with them. Plato, Protagoras 320c - 322a (trans. Jowett)

17 Prometheus Bound (Rubens, )

18 Who is the monster?

19 Three concentric “I”-narratives

20 Robert Walton of Victor Frankenstein “I begin to love him as a brother; and his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion” (15)

21 Frankenstein’s science “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world” (32). “I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit” (32) “how often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation” (32)

22 Three concentric “I”-narratives

23 “Geneva and its environs”

24 “Geneva and its environs”: character movements

25 Google Earth: character movements

26 The bonds of sympathy

27 Sympathy and Self-recognition “As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar, yet at the same time strangely unlike the beings concerning whom I read, and to whose conversation I was a listener. I sympathized with, and partly understood them, but I was unformed in mind; I was dependent on none, and related to none” (86).

28 Self-consciousness “My person was hideous, and my stature gigantic: what did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These question continually recurred but I was unable to solve them.” (86)

29 The Humanities make humans? “Literature, taken in all its bearings, forms the grand line of demarcation between the human and the animal kingdoms” – William Godwin, “Of an Early Taste for Reading”

30 A Review of Humanity in HUM 102 “And yet what do I see from the window but hats and coats which may cover automatic machines. Yet I judge these to be men.” (Descartes, CP 23-24) “They don’t let ordinary people get used to cutting up animals, because they think it tends to destroy one’s natural feelings of humanity” (More CP 54) “Second Apparition: Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth.” (Macbeth, Act 4, Sc. 1)

31 A Review of Humanity in HUM 102 “To describe the nature of this artificial man, I will consider First the matter thereof, and the artificer; both of which is man” (Hobbes, CP 161) “… it finally even influences the principles of government, which finds that it can profit by treating men, who are now more than machines, in accord with their dignity” (Kant, CP 168) What does Mary Shelley’s novel add to this collection of discourse?

32 Concluding Questions Are we to blame Frankenstein for creating the creature? Or for abandoning him? Was the creature always already (biologically) a monster from the moment of his animation? Or was he made into a monster through his treatment by humans? Through the absence of companionship and sympathy? Would it be possible to be human without a community that accepts and recognizes him as such?


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