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Mary Shelley (1797-1851) A look at literary criticism and conversations about Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein By: Jessica Berke.

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Presentation on theme: "Mary Shelley (1797-1851) A look at literary criticism and conversations about Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein By: Jessica Berke."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mary Shelley ( ) A look at literary criticism and conversations about Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein By: Jessica Berke

2 Inspiration behind the novel The idea for what is often called the first science fiction novel was born on the shores of Lake Geneva, in the "year without a summer". Forced to busy themselves with indoor activities, Romantic poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley (Mary’s husband), as well as Mary herself challenged one another to create the most chilling story. Up against well renowned poets such as Byron and Shelley, Mary felt compelled to prove her own literary capabilities through this challenge.

3 The Outcome? "I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous Creator of the world.” – Mary Shelley What would result, a year later, was a full-blown novel with elements from the Gothic and Romantic periods. It is also laced with references to John Milton's Paradise Lost. (Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould Me man?)

4 A feminist view of Frankenstein… Anne K. Mellor’s critical essay entitled “Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein” is an eye opening essay about the female role in Frankenstein’s patriarchal society. “How is Frankenstein feminist?” There is an overwhelming reoccurrence of injustice, inequality, and unequal consideration for women throughout the novel, so overwhelming that it makes one think that Frankenstein is anti-feminist. (Men preoccupied with creativity, intellectual endeavors, and career oriented ventures, wheareas female characters are domesticated and submissive.)

5 A feminist view of Frankenstein… The division of male and female societal roles is endorsed by Victor can be understood through the lens of his attitude towards the monster’s request for a female companion as well as his exclusion of a female in creation of the monster. Upon the monster’s request for a mate Victor surprisingly has a revelation and promises to create the monster a female companion, after months of delay Victor finally begins creating a female for the monster but later stops his work upon deciding to deprive his creation of a female companion. Mellor raises a great question, “What does Victor Frankenstein truly fear, which causes him to end his creation of the female” (360)? Mellor believes that Victor is fearful of an independent female will that will drive the female creature to have desires and opinions that her male counterpart will not be able to control.

6 A Miltonic reading of Frankenstein For Gilbert and Gubar, the Miltonic creation epic is central to the meaning of Frankenstein; indeed, they maintain that Mary Shelley's novel is a nineteenth-century, Romantic, and Feminist reading of Paradise Lost. Like Victor Frankenstein, the monster enacts in turn the roles of Adam and Satan, and even eventually hints at a sort of digression into the role of God. Like Adam, he recalls a time of primordial innocence, his days and nights in "the forest near Ingolstadt," where he ate berries, learned about heat and cold, and perceived "the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me" (88, ch. 11)

7 Conversations among critics… Another pattern that both Anne Mellor in "The Female in Frankenstein" and William Veeder in "Frankenstein: Self-Division and Projection" discuss is that of symbolism, which reinforces Victor Frankenstein's hubris in trying to eliminate the female as he attempts to win eternal fame as the founder of a new line of “super humans”. the scientist asserts his ego by challenging the laws of nature. Whereas Victor sacrifices his hopes for marriage and Clerval sacrifices his plans to attend university to nurse the stricken Victor, Walton and Frankenstein make no concessions in their quest for greatness. Thus, male characters are preoccupied by hubris. Walton and Frankenstein, seek limited male companionship, relegating the females in their lives to correspondents rather than companions. Moreover, it is Victor's destruction of his bride, who is to be his sole companion, that prompts the monster to murder Elizabeth on her wedding night, thus symbolizing the threat against the female figure.

8 A Multi-faceted reading of Frankenstein… By drawing upon a number of critical approaches, Veeder produces a multi-faceted analysis of Mary Shelley and her best-known novel. Mary Shelley & Frankenstein is an attempt, as Veeder suggests, to read the novel "in context”. Veeder employs psychoanalysis, intentionality, feminism, biography, stylistics, intertextuality and close reading (p. 2).

9 A Multi-faceted reading of Frankenstein… The focus of this study is Frankenstein, but Veeder goes beyond it into all of Shelley's novels after 1818, as well as Percy's works. This strategy allows him to more thoroughly create this "context" he seeks. Often, Veeder collects references from these novels, as well as non- fiction works by Mary, and presents them in block form, again creating a sense of all-pervasiveness of the themes he identifies.

10 Film Adaptations of Frankenstein Frankenstein (1931) James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein in some way started it all, especially because of the creation scene, the lightning bolt, and the cry "It's alive! Alive!“ Freaks (1932) The opening of Tod Browning's 1932 Freaks, wherein the opening credits begin with the line: "HISTORY, RELIGION, FOLKLORE and LITERATURE abound in tales of misshapen misfits who have altered the world's course. GOLIATH, CALABAN, FRANKENSTEIN, GLOUCESTER, TOM THUMB and KAISER WILHELM..”

11 Film Adaptations of Frankenstein Bride of Frankenstein (1935) James Whale takes the issues of creating a companion to the Creature one step further Other adaptations of the film include: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1957) The Colossus of New York (1958) Jessie James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966) Frankenstein: The True Story (1972 TV miniseries) Young Frankenstein (1974) Gods and Monsters (1998)

12 A new genre… Through her fascination with science, and her studies of scientists like Dalvi, Darwin, and Galvani, Mary Shelley used her scientific knowledge to address and criticize the more dangerous implications of studies in science. Critics like Anne Mellor were interested in Shelley’s inferences about the world of science. Although she was certainly no scientist herself, Shelley had a firm grasp conceptually of the knowledge and ideas that were beginning to circulate in the world of science. Particularly oriented in Galvanism, the creation of the Creature exemplifies the studies of using electricity to stimulate the muscles, thus bringing life to the inanimate. Exemplifies Shelley’s keen predictions of what science may accomplish in later years.


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