Further Reading: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Mary’s Shelley’s father, William Godwin, was friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge author of  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Coleridge would visit the Godwin household when Mary was growing up, and Mary was very fond of the poet. There is a story that one night when Coleridge was visiting Godwin he recited The Rime of the Ancient Mariner from memory and Mary was suppose to be in bed, but Mary had snuck out of bed and hide in order to hear Coleridge’s recitation. The poem really resonated with Mary and is even quoted by Walton in Frankenstein. It is worth a read if you haven’t before. I has a simple rhyme scheme that helps keep the poem moving forward. I also enjoy the narrative structure of the poem.  Read the poem and let me know what you thought of it!

Here are some other resources on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

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Film: Victor Frankenstien

Frankenstein was first published 200 years ago in 1818. Mary Shelley’s story , is as always,  everywhere. The novel may even be referred to as a culture text, because the novel has been appropriated by pop culture so much, so often, and in so many ways, that of “adaptations” of Frankenstein have less to do with Shelley’s novel, and more to do with culture’s reference for Frankenstein. A good example of this is the movie Victor Frankenstein. The protagonist and narrator of the film is Igor. Igor is Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant, and is not in the novel at all. Igor first appearance is in 1931 film titled Frankenstein, and the character isn’t even named Igor. His name is Fritz. Yet Dr. Frankenstein’s hunchback assistant has become such an enduring part of the representation of Frankenstein, that there is literally a movie about the origin story of Igor. Victor Frankenstein is not a very good movie. It is like the 2009 Sherlock Holmes: it attempts to turn a literary classic into an action movie. Here is a absolutely great episode of the podcast The Flop House. I also enjoyed this review on the film.

 

Film: Mary Shelley

Adaptation and Frankenstein seem to go together like the creature and creator. I love this article from Lit Hub about adaptations of Frankenstein. Speaking of adaptation, has anyone seen the new biopic (so not actually an adaptation) Mary Shelley starring Elle Fanning? I am so hesitant to see it, I love the whole Mary Shelley gang so much, and I have complicated feelings about a Hollywood portrayal of my girl, Mary. If you have seen Mary Shelley let me know what you think?

 

Current Reads

I have been MIA for a few months. I finished Frankenstein, graduated college, my daughter turned one, and my husband and I are trying to narrow down grad school contenders. While all this has been going on I have been reading. The following is a current list of what I have been slowly devouring:

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot (A very long novel that is totally worth the time and effort.)
  • Lodore by Mary Shelley (This is the last novel she wrote. It is tragic and beautiful and made me ugly cry.)
  • The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kristin Gier and translated by Anthea Bell (I usually don’t read much YA fiction, but sometimes I need something a little lighter.)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (this was my first time reading it. I liked it more than Sense and Sensibility but less than Northanger Abbey. I love Northanger Abbey.)
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (I cannot wait to read her new book Hunger.)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (It was also my first time reading this. It took some time to get into it, but I really enjoyed it. I would totally reread it.)
  • The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks (This is a collection of short stories. They are absolutely stunning. I added a link to the book since it might be a little more difficult to find at your local library but would totally be worth purchasing if you are interested. I really cannot say enough good things about this book.)

That’s what I have been reading. I have also started listening to the podcast Secret Feminist Agenda. It is great! Go check it out!

Frankenstein 1831: response 2

In Mary Shelley’s Introduction to Frankenstein she says, “I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have affection for it” (9). This reminded my of some of Anne Bradstreet’s poetry. Bradstreet’s work precedes Shelley’s by about a hundred years, but they seem to view their work in a similar light. In Bradstreet’s poem “The Author to Her Book”, the speaker calls her writing “ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain” (1). This is similar to Shelley calling her novel her “hideous progeny.” Both writers, Shelley and the speaker in Bradstreet’s poem, view their work as monstrous. The speaker in the poem goes on to say, “I cast thee by as one unfit for light,/ Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;/  Yet being mine own, at length affection would/ Thy blemishes amend” (9-12). Though their works are ill-formed or hideous the author still feels affection for their creation and revises their work in order to attempt make them fit for readers. Later in the poem the speaker says, “If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none” (23). This quotation reminds me more of the novel Frankenstein, than anything specifically that Shelley says. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the author has created her book without a partner of the opposite sex. Both text see their creation as something unnatural, though in the poem the speaker is affectionate towards her creation, where as Frankenstein sees his creation as merely a devil.

Frankenstein 1831: response 1

The copy of the 1831 Frankenstein I am reading is the Barnes & Noble Classics edition published in 2003. It is not divided into volumes, like the 1818 version. I do not know if that is just an editorial choice of Barnes & Nobles or if Shelley just did not divide this version in volumes.

A quote from Frankenstein’s creatures narrative stood out to me. This quotation is also in the 1818 version. The creature says, “the words [the cottagers] uttered, not having any apparent connection with visible objects, I was unable to discover any clue which I could unravel the mystery of their reference” (100). I love that this quotation shows that language is arbitrary. Signifiers are meaningless without any connection to the signified.

A Brief Intermission

I finished the 1818 version of Frankenstein, and am currently reading the 1831 version of the novel. Posts for this version are going to be a little different than the post for the 1818 version. Instead of working through the novel linearly, my posts will be more centered around specific topics. Topics I am planning on writing on include the physical descriptions of Frankenstein compared to the monster, the portrayal of knowledge, orientalist, and anxiety with creation. After I complete the novel I will compare the two version. I am reading both version to see which version is better suited for students. I want to get through the monster’s narrative in volume 2 before I start to really compile posts on the topics listed above. Right now I am just reading, collecting interesting quotations, and doing research. Stay tuned for more Frankenstein fun!

Frankenstein 1818: response 5

Volume 3 of Frankenstein goes back to Frankenstein narrating, then the last 10 pages end with Walton narrating. This post I will focus on Frankenstein’s narration. After Henry Clerval’s death at the hands of the creature, as Frankenstein retells of his travels with his friend, he reflect “where does [Clerval] now exist? Is the this gentle and lovely being lost for ever? Has this mind so replete with ideas, imaginations fanciful and magnificent, which formed a world, whose existence depended on the life of its creator; has this mind perished” (112). I love how Shelley is continually drawing parallels between different characters. Frankenstein’s creature seems inversion of Clerval. Frankenstein has two traveling companions; one that tries to buoy him and another that attempts to drag him down. Frankenstein sees himself of being pulled between heaven and hell. Like Walton is drawn to the north, Frankenstein is first pulled to creation then to destruction. Later, when Frankenstein decides to destroy the mate he has been making for the creature, he considers “[The creature] had sworn to quit the neighborhood of man, and hide himself in deserts; but [the creature’s companion] had not; and she; who in all probability was to become a thinking and reasoning animal, might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation” (119). This is an interesting quotation when considering how the monster mate would fulfill the role of Eve. It would seem that this female creature would be “born” into a fallen world, where she would automatically be an outcast, yet she still has choice. Like Eve it seems mankind is dependent on her choice, but because of the actions of Frankenstein’s creature she never has the opportunity to chose or even to live, but this also reveals the weight of her choice and how her choice is something to be feared. Because she would be born fallen, Frankenstein decides it would be better for man (and woman) if this female creation never was. Last, while traveling Frankenstein sees a tree hit by lightning, and he compares himself to the tree: “I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit, what I shall soon cease to be–a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others, and abhorrent to myself” (115). Lightning has the power to give life and to take life. Lightning brings animation to Frankenstein’s creature, but it kills the tree. It gives life to the destroyed and manmade, while killing the natural.  Frankenstein is repeatedly caught between two opposites. As he gives life, he also destroys life; as he becomes a god, he also becomes a devil.

Frankenstein 1818: response 4

I want to explore Frankenstein’s creature’s narrative more, before moving on to Volume 3 of Frankenstein. My favorite portion of the novel is the creature’s story because of the eloquence of Frankenstein’s creature. Frankenstein credits the creature’s eloquence to a tool of manipulation, and if so it works. In their essay “Horror’s Twin: Mary Shelley’s Monstrous Eve,” Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar assert that “the murderous monster’s single, carefully guarded narrative commands and controls Mary Shelley’s novel” (235). The creature is so likable and relatable. His eloquence and therefor his narrative humanizes him. Last post I considered Frankenstein’s creature’s name, or lack of, and how the creature seems more like Eve than Adam. Gilbert and Gubar argue that both Victor Frankenstein and the creature are Eve-like characters, with particular focus on Frankenstein’s creature. They mention how the creature’s narrative helps establish him as Eve-like. They say “the murderous monster’s narrative is a philosophical meditation on what it means to be born without a ‘soul’ or a history, as well as an exploration of what it feels like to be a ‘filthy mass that move[s] and talk[s],’ a thing, an other, a creature of the second sex” (235).  The creature’s story is Eve’s story, and thus it is woman’s story. The creature’s narrative is not just powerful because of his eloquence, but because it gives life to Eve’s and women’s narratives. It justifies the fallen.

With that being said , I want to explore the idea of the creature being Eve-like a little further by discussing how the creature discusses knowledge. Through his discussion of communication  readers learn of the creature’s craving for knowledge, but the creature also speaks of knowledge specifically. He says “of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind, when it has once seized on it, like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes to shake of all thought and feelings” (83). Like Eve the creature has a desire for  knowledge, but knowledge comes with consequences. Once innocence is lost, it can never be regained. For the creature, gaining knowledge means losing innocence. The creature sums this up when he tells Victor, “Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was” (91).