The Final Paper

British Literature

January 25th, 2010

Themes: , , , , , , ,

In which you compile a number of sources to prove an amazing point about a novel of your choice.

I’ll present the essay in steps, then lay out the rules. Remember to record all information (essay titles, author names, URLs of interesting essays, and search queries) in your journal. Bring this journal tomorrow.

  1. Think about a few novels you’ve really enjoyed.
  2. Look up the titles or authors in the EBSCO Databases here. (Click the link, then click “EBSCO Databases, then “Select All,” continue, then “Continue,” check “Full text,” then enter your terms.)
  3. If you don’t find several articles about your book or author, start over from #1 –or– search for similar titles and authors, the period in which it was written, or the genre. Root around, you may come up with an idea just by searching similar works.
  4. Once you have a number of articles, check the bibliography, the source, the subject matter of each. If one looks solid, continue. If not, move on to the next one.
  5. Skim the article. If it’s interesting, print it (or email a copy to yourself and print at school tomorrow) and repeat #4 with another article. If it isn’t interesting, discard it and repeat #4.
  6. Once you have a number of interesting articles, grab your copy of the book and begin re-reading it if you’d like.
  7. Reflect and feel content about your full night’s work.

We’ll discuss all of the specific guidelines in class tomorrow, but here are some to set you in the right direction:

This is going to be a research paper over the historical, philosophical, or cultural context of the novel. As you go, you’ll record all steps, information gathered, and ideas in a journal. I will meet with each of you daily until you have a solid footing with this project. Come to class every day with an explanation of your night’s work along with your research, the work and your journal.

Historical: You will be explaining what circumstances may have enabled the novel to come about (the impact of previous works or the historical context). For example, if you wrote over Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you might write about the “perfect storm” of Victorian Gothic literature and scientific exploration during the Edwardian eras.

Philosophical: You will be writing over the philosophy presented in the novel. A Freudian interpretation of Lord of the Flies (which we touched on during our discussions) would be appropriate here.

Cultural: Some novels seem to be timeless and continue to have impacts today. With the cultural essay, you will research the impact a novel had on a time period other than the one in which it was written. Of course, tracing the repercussions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would be great, or the resurgence of Lord of the Flies during the sixties (thanks, Ellen!) or recently, with the production of the movies.

Post any and all questions below or write them in your journals for class tomorrow. We’ll be looking at all of these approaches in more detail then.

Frankenstein, the Gothic, and the Sublime

British Literature

November 9th, 2009

Themes: , , , ,

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. []