Monthly Archives: January 2012

Fear and Loathing in Frankenstein (and the 21st Century in General)

Something interesting that just struck me is how things we consider frightening have changed over time. To the Romantics and people of Shelley’s day, the notion of creating life  scared  them. Now, living in our Post-Modern day, what scares us anymore? My first inclination is to propose that it is death, but I think that would be too easy, because humans reflexively fear death and the unknowns associated with it.

Perhaps then, what Shelley proposes is scary to the Romantics is not the creation of life, but rather the invention over something they have no control over . This seems valid, especially how at this point, the Romantics and Romantic modes of thinking are made in response to the Industrial Revolution. I think this concept can still be seen a small bit in the movies still produced today about Artificial Intelligence surpassing the creator.

This still doesn’t particularly help with understanding what the 21st Century audience is scared of. Most people, with mention of Frankenstein do not consider it to be a frightening story, even though that could have been the intention.

One small foray into the human psyche says that, at least in the industrialized nations, we are afraid of discomfort. So many films about torture. So many infomercials about needing blankets with sleeves. Any inconvenience can be thrown money at to fix. Any thought of pain keeps us in our mental cages.



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Frankenstein: Shelley’s Narrative Style isn’t Going Out of Style

I can probably guess that I am the only one who would care about this topic in regard to Frankenstein.

One of the things that has really facinated me in regard to the journey literature takes over the course of the past few hundred years is that of the use of framing devices and other agents to make a work more realistic. I have always wondered what caused the very first author who participated in this mode of narrative to thing “gee, I think I will make this first chapter NOTHING about the main characters. How the protagonists relate to this framing agent will be seen only by around chapter four.”

Elements of this narrative are seen in most works from this time period, such as The Scarlet Letter and others of their ilk. However, the use of this in literature is no longer in vogue. However, this literary convention of the Romantic/post-Romantic time period that is similar to the concept seen in movies such as Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and The Blair Witch Project. The framing of these stories involves them having a movie camera to record a documentary or record the goings on at a party. That and the shaky camera angles usually employed convey that this was “found footage”, just like how a letters recording an event unfolding provide more distance between you and the author.

Frankenstein, obviously, uses this method of narrative. This heightens the realism, drama, and can actually make the work more frightening than if the work was just the tale of the namesake of the novel.


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The Romantics had a Drinking Problem

Sometimes a phrase, stanza, line, or sentence will just catch you a certain way where you can’t stop contemplating them. This stanza in Keat’s “Ode to a Nightingale” did that for me.

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool’d a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,

Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South!

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stainèd mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

– “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

 begin with, what a wonderful section of imagery! The tone of the poem isn’t altogether a happy one, however, this section is much more upbeat in what it conveys. Sometimes, I must say, I feel the same as Keat’s speaker in wishing for a “draught of


Returning to the title of this entry, I must admit, I was being purposefully hyperbolic. However, the Romantics do tend to get carried away with their frivolities. The Romantic era is characterized by Charles Baudelaire as being “precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.” These strong feelings sweep away the monotony of the real day-to-day life. What else epitomizes this concept than the idea of drinking and merry-making? Or the idea of using alcohol as an escape?

The Romantic philosophy is grounded in the concept of the rejection of the rational, logical, and “Englightenment” self. Science does not rule the day for the Romantics, who would much rather sit down and discuss the aesthetics of a painting than the mechanics behind why the moon revolves around Earth.

Another Romantic philosophy exemplified in this selection is the fascination with nature and a certain amount of “oneness” associated with nature. I’d love to experience what Keats conveys, a chilled glass in hand and relaxing on the back deck overlooking the “country-green.”

The Romantics wouldn’t look at drinking as a problem,  nor as a solution either. Merely as a complement to life, like a nice Merlot with a New York Strip.


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Introduction and Some Ramblings on Books, Of Course

This entry is merely to make sure I have some content before I begin the rest of my blogging adventure in my English 2653 and 4910 classes.

I’ve been wanting to start a blog and maintain it, which is the kicker, for some time now. After a few futile attempts, I think probably the best course of action is precisely what is occurring now: I am doing it for a grade. Because I’m doing it for a grade, I’m going to be contemplative, thorough, and write much better than if I was just doing it for myself.

Although, in reality, no one blogs merely for “themselves”. There’s always that undercurrent of “I hope someone out there, even if it is my mom, reads this.” If there wasn’t that desire, people would just make private blogs. Or write on actual paper and decide not post the personal and private details of the innermost thoughts on a medium that people could stalk you through.

That being said, this really isn’t a “Bio” type entry, merely a semi-mission statement of why I’m starting this blog and what I hope it transitions into. I’m sure that in Blog Writing and New Media, I will have to do the standard backstory type entry, but I feel right now that this is neither the time nor place.

Although, for a small forray into my personal life, I will post one of my new goals for this new year. I plan to be constantly reading at least one extra-curricular book at a time. Right now, I think I’m actively reading (defining “actively reading” as “I have picked this book up in the last week to read it”, because sometimes I’m a book quitter) three, not counting The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for American Lit II. is actually helping me maintain a much more active reading life, which is thrilling. It’s a good site, especially since it takes a load off of mind of trying to keep track of the books I am reading or like to read.

Current reads:

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
I picked this up probably at least two summers ago. It’s been so long since I bought it, that Borders actually wasn’t on the threat of financial collapse. Basically a grown-up amalgamation of a Hogwarts and Chronicles of Narnia setting, it follows the protagonist Quentin, who learns there is a lot more physics and cynicism in magic than he could have possibly anticipated. Written in a dry, wry style reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk, Grossman is able to captivate my attention, hold it, then punch it in the face with his dark view of society at large. Actually, I think it was that death punch that knocked my first attempt at reading this out of the water. There’s this weird Part II break, that follows Quentin and his friends around NYC being “grown up” magicians who are squatters in people’s houses and do a lot of hard recreational drugs. It got pretty depressing. I think, however, that due to my new love for these more cyncial themes and growing up in general, I can make another attempt and actually finish it, since it has been taunting me from my bookshelf for at least two years.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
This was a reccomendation of the way to make baby-steps into Vonnegut by a very dear person to me, so I thought I would give it a whirl. I’m still not very far in yet, perhaps chapter three, where we are receiving a lot of backstory of the history of Malachi Constant, but I loved the beginning section of the book, talking about the meaning of life and other universal truths. Probably this review on the cover best demonstrates how I feel towards it and gives a good starting point for the novel as a whole: “His best book . . . He dares not only ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it.”  I hadn’t realized that I was already familiar with one Vonnegut story which I saw as an adaptation into a really bad one-act play performed my high school drama society when I was a Freshman under a different name. Whenever I got bored at my Nana’s house this Christmas, I pawed through her wall-to-floor bookshelves in my mother’s old bedroom. This search yielded fruitful, for I found a literature textbook that my uncle used in college. I was able to read some authors I’ve never heard of before, but “Harrison Bergeron” was anthologized within it, so I thought giving Vonnegut a go was a good idea.

The Egypt Game by Zelpha Keatley Snyder
This was a “hey, it’s Christmas break, so let’s do fun reading” book that I never finished. I’ve read this book so many times, but it never gets old. Yes, it has pictures. Yes, it’s a tiny paperback book written on fifth grade reading level. But, it’s one of those stories that you just constantly return to because they inspired you somewhere along your walk of life. I used to want to find friends to play the Egypt Game with. I used Melanie and April’s system for making paper dolls and stories. I found that I loved mythology through this book. In regards to the plot, The Egypt Game is about a group of kids who break into the back yard of a zany antique dealer and play-pretend that they are in the days of Egyptian pharaohs. It was written in an older era, possibly the late 1970s or 1980s, when kids were still allowed to be kids. Snyder tried writing a sequel called The Gypsy Game, which is set up from the end of this book, but The Egypt Game is one of those books that doesn’t need a sequel. Just like the ever-increasing amount of sequels that don’t need to happen  (Mission Impossible 5, Madagascar 3, Final Destination, anyone?), I like leaving these characters where they are and imagining what happens to them in the end.

I can’t think of a better way to sign out, so I’ll just leave it at that.



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