Journals & Motifs

Junior English

August 30th, 2012

Themes: , ,

I gave you each feedback on your journals/annotations/essay drafts in class today. If you’re having trouble making the literary connections (the motifs we’ve been discussing in class), write a list of those we’ve discussed (light imagery, creation, hubris, etc.) and record any quotations you come across that match the motif. Once you have a list, ask yourself why the authors would repeat these elements, or how one author’s use contrasts with another’s. I’m interested in what you’ll have to discuss on Tuesday.

For the record: we are reading through chapter 19 over the break.

Patterns and Papers

Junior English

August 29th, 2012

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We spent Monday looking over your essays, looking for shared connections and discussing composition techniques. I (re)emphasized the importance of outlining, as these essays are going to become part of a larger synthesis later.

Tuesday and Wednesday were devoted to application of the themes and motifs (the sublime, light imagery, creation stories, the beautiful, hubris, etc.) that we found in Frankenstein to other works found in your “Frankensources” packet. By taking copious notes in your journals along the way, you have begun writing your papers in earnest without even realizing it; those patterns you’ve discovered will become major points supported by the quotations you’ve noted. Good times.

Read through the works we discussed today and yesterday and journal through chapter 17 for tomorrow.

Frankenwriting & Outline Workshop

Junior English

August 25th, 2012

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We began writing our first essay on Friday, spending most of the hour bringing ideas together into outlines, troubleshooting thesis statements, and collecting evidence. Our endeavors were focused on one of two questions:

You should finish this essay this weekend and read through chapter 14 of the novel.

As you work on this essay this weekend, remember that this is not meant to be a final draft. In fact, we won’t be making a final draft of this essay at all; it is your first major step in answering our overall question: What makes Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Romantic?

As you begin writing, keep in mind three questions:

An outline of the above would look like this:

Thesis: Frankenstein’s reaction to his creation can be better understood in the context of Edmund Burke’s beliefs about the sublime and the beautiful.

I.1 Victor’s reaction to his monster’s awakening seems to illustrate Burke’s understanding of the sublime.

A. Victor is afraid of his creation (Shelley 42).
B.  Burke argues that the root of the sublime is fear (13).

II. [Another argument in support of my thesis; likely something about the beautiful.]

This is a very simple outline, but follows the rules we discussed in class:

  1. Cited material is located only at the lowest level. (The rightmost indentation.)
  2. The points of higher levels are arguments (things that someone may disagree with), not synopses or restatements of plot points.
  3. Every level has at least two points. (Every “I” has a “II,” every “A” has a “B.”

All of the above may be a lot to take in, but we will discuss your process and ideas on Monday. If you have a question in the meantime, post a comment below or send me an email.

  1. One of my answers to the second question above; note that in an actual outline there must be more than one major point. []

Prometheus Unlimited

Junior English

August 23rd, 2012

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Been an amazing week so far: great discussions, solid journals, impressive insights. Very excited for this year.

Tuesday and Wednesday were devoted primarily to journal checks. While you are all used to annotations and journaling, the scope of this paper is greater than you’ve likely encountered. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to continue asking questions, seeking answers, trying out connections, and writing down those quotations. The grades are in the grade book. Remember, your current scores are based on a 5-point scale and we’re going for perfection; if you have a 3 in vocab, make sure you’re writing down (and defining!) unfamiliar words. If you were writing down quotations without making connections, make them and your grade will go up.

We’ve continued our discussion of the Romantic Era and its reflection in this novel. Look back for other links about this period, but I’ll recommend this site again. Worth a look—really.

We discussed the romantics’ infatuation with two unlikely heroes: Milton’s Satan and Prometheus. Both challenged the gods and were punished for it, much like our poor cocky hubristic protagonist. We spent most of the hour making connections between Enlightenment/Romantic ideas about the sublime and beautiful and Victor’s reaction to his creation:

I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.

I also told the relevant stories of Prometheus1, but here is a great resource for further research.

Our discussions resulted in the following, which may only be clear for those who were present for the discussion.2 If you weren’t, ask a peer to walk you through it.

We read Goethe’s “Prometheus” (1772–4) and Byron’s… “Prometheus” (1816) in class today, as well. We’ll discuss these tomorrow with Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1820), just to drive the point about their obsession home.

  1. Though I left out the Pandora bit—gotta have a cliffhanger, don’t I? []
  2. And my ham-fisted Paint skills coupled with awkward camera angles aren’t helping []

Frankenstein, Verisimilitude, and the Sublime

Junior English

August 20th, 2012

Themes: , , , ,

We began our discussion of Frankenstein today with questions from you:

These questions and your insights will be the lifeblood of our conversations, so keep them coming.

If you were absent, be sure to get copies of the notes from a peer, but here are a few highlights:1

Shelley’s introduction of the story with letters from the mariner provides a bit of verisimilitude to the opening, while offering an excellently sublime backdrop to a story that would otherwise begin with a description of the titular character’s childhood. In addition, it gives the audience a glimpse into the author’s thesis—beware of unbridled scientific inquiry?—through the conversation between the sailor (here embodying the Enlightenment’s values of a self-assured explorer) and Victor (a man whose vanity and hubris brought him low). Shelley clearly wants her audience to understand which side she’s on.

Victor’s relationship with his sister/cousin prompted a discussion of gender politics at the time. We read selections from Edmund Burke’s 1757 A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, specifically his sections on the beauty of small objects and the sublime. To make the Frankenstein connection, we read excerpts of Mary Wollstonecraft’s rebuttal, A Vindication of the Rights of Men. ((Copies will be made available shortly.))

Finally, we began reading from the large “Frankensources” packet I gave you.2

You should read and journal tonight through chapter five of the novel. If you’ve journaled all you can, begin reading and annotating the packet. Once you’ve read through a work within, go back to your Frankenstein journal and note any connections; these will soon be the basis of our discussions—they will later be the basis of your paper.

Oh! Interesting explanation of the etymology of “inspiration” here.

  1. Here is an ugly comparison between the two eras we’re focused on. Yours will be more detailed when we get done, but it might be helpful now. []
  2. If you’d like a digital copy, send me an email. Copyright restrictions preclude my posting it here. []