Frankenstein, the Gothic, and the Sublime

British Literature

November 9th, 2009

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Welcome back! (So it’s only been three days, but with the new semester and all…)

We began Frankenstein in a bit of a roundabout way today—with a discussion of what it means to be Gothic. While the first image that came to many of you was a pale kid in black with eyeliner1, we eventually came up with this:

 Notre Dame dr Strasbourg Flying buttresses. It’s a good start.

Basically, things (be they art, architecture, literature, or music) that fall under the “Gothic” heading are eerie, ominous, looming, grotesque, and sometimes monstrous.2 Coming out of the realism and social commentary that dominated the Age of Enlightenment (think Gulliver’s Travels and “A Modest Proposal”), authors writing Gothic literature in the 19th century turned away from such practical views of the world and focused on settings and the emotional experience of events.

This is exemplified perfectly by Schubert’s Erlkönig (1815)3, a piece based on Goethe’s poem (1782) of the same name, which in turn was based on a creature from Danish folktales.4 The Leid tells the story of a boy and his father traveling through deep dark woods, with the son becoming more and more frightened by a supernatural presence. Of course, the father doesn’t seem worried, and by the end of the journey, he finds he’s carrying a dead child. Emotional, terrifying, grotesque, sublime: Gothic.

Architecture, art, and music at the time emphasized these emotions and attempted to elicit feelings of awe and the sublime in their audiences. (Remember our awe discussions with the Existentialists and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?)

As you read Frankenstein, keep this in mind. Shelley was certainly commenting on the effects of the Industrial Revolution (a solid insight by a few of you). But more than anything, she elicits a feeling of the sublime and grotesque in her audience.

Things to Journal:

Before Class Tomorrow:

Read everything within and around the book (cover, title page, notes at the back, and foreword) that isn’t the story itself. Journal as you have with previous works. (See “Things to Journal” above if you need a kick-start.)

  1. BTW, did you know there is a Goth Day at Disneyland? Something about all that black and the CA sunshine gives me images of streaking makeup… []
  2. There’s a great gallery of 19th century Gothic architecture at Boston College’s website. []
  3. You can thank your band teacher for this connection []
  4. I found this information, along with an English translation, on the wiki page. []

The Right-Click Synonym Trick Problem is One of Miscommunication, Not Stupidity

Notes from Stallings

August 3rd, 2009

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(at least in high school.)

We’ve all done it before—sometimes an elusive word is on the tip of the tongue, but we can’t seem to come up with it. So, we type in a similar word, right-click, and hope the synonym list jogs our memory. The right correct appropriate word pops up, the writer’s-block crisis is averted, and we’re on our way. Good times. Sometimes, though, the synonym doesn’t quite fit, or is the wrong word altogether.

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Third Hour Final Unit

British Literature

February 8th, 2009

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During the last three weeks of this session we will be pulling from everything we’ve done before: critical analysis of texts, cultural analysis of works, integration and synthesis of works from different eras and cultures, and explication of literary devices.  "How will we do this?" you ask?  By answering an apparently simple question:

What do Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Wilfred Owen’s "Dulce Et Decorum Est," H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (and The Days of the Comet, and The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), the Danse Macabre, 1984, punk music (The Clash!), Twitter, Wikipedia, The Wisdom of Crowds, The Starfish and the Spider, DIY, Internet piracy, and podcasting have in common?

Our answer can be as simple and complex as we want, but it will take our understanding of all these cultural phenomena and works and the skills we’ve acquired this year to pull off a solid answer.

Now that’s a cumulative test.

Frankensteinian Stories

British Literature

December 5th, 2008

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The projected due date: December 12, 2008.

The task: To take a theme (see image below) from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and create a new work explore it with an original work.  This work can be visual (painting, drawing, CGI), tactile (dance, sculpture, diorama), auditory (song), or written (poetry, short story, essay, screenplay, comic book).  If I haven’t mentioned a medium you’d like to work within, just post a comment.

The goal:  We’ve discussed the role of fiction in society (to take an aspect of life and magnify it), we’ve discussed what Shelley might be trying to tell us, so now it’s your turn.  Create a work that explains an idea, thought, action, problem, or other aspect of life in a new and interesting way for your audience.

The rules:


"Monstrous" parakeet:

Galvanic Art: “Twitch”

British Literature, Internet Goodness

November 20th, 2008

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I found this site [Warning: The site contains images of dissected frogs that have been implanted with computer parts] while I was researching galvanism yesterday, and forgot to post the link.

Check out the "Project Exhibition Essay" in the middle of the page for the Frankenstein connection.

Remember, I’ll be looking over your reading journals tomorrow.