Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus • Mary Shelley, 1818 How many truly horrible things can happen to one person?
Shelley’s Sad, Sad Life • Father-William Godwin, radical philosopher • Mother-Mary Wollstonecraft, noted feminist intellectual, died shortly after childbirth • Husband-Percey Bysse Shelley, Romantic poet, died in drowning accident • Three of Shelley’s four children died before age three; a miscarriage with a fifth child nearly killed Shelley
Frankenstein and Shelley’s Life • Some schools of criticism, including Karen Karbiener’s introductory remarks, connect the ideas and events in Frankenstein to Shelley’s life. • Karbiener and others also connect the text to the Romantic Period – Percey Shelley and Lord Byron were noted Romantic poets.
So You Say You Want a Revolution!..Roots of Romanticism • Will the French Revolution do? • 1789…this changes everything! • Established hierarchies, monarchies, religious beliefs…all these long held values were subject to change.
Enter the Age of the Romantics • In Art and Literature, the French Revolution is seen as ushering in the age of Romanticism.
What’s It Mean? ro·man·ti·cism (r -m n t -s z m) n. 1. often Romanticism An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterized by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual's expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions. 2. Romantic quality or spirit in thought, expression, or action.
Nature • Seen as antidote to harmful effects of urbanization • Touring beautiful scenery a new leisure activity of the time • Landscape endowed with human life, passion and expressiveness (feelings previously given to God)
Joseph William Turner 1775-1851 • His paintings transformed from conventional landscapes to expressive, spontaneous, intense imagery.
Emphasis on the Individual • Poets see themselves as chosen sons (and daughters!) or Bards • Hero is self-sufficient • Habit of spurning human connections • High Value on human potential and power
Individualism: The Risk • Renaissance and Reformation writers (that is, pre-Romanticism) were very much concerned with too much individualism. • After all, the sin of pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Do you remember the story of Prometheus? • Prometheus enrages Zeus by stealing fire to give to man. • His punishment is to be chained to a rock and have his liver pecked out by eagle. It regenerates each night. • Hercules frees him.
Why is Prometheus part of the title? • The myth of Prometheus was popular with the Romantic poets. Why would it appeal to them?
Milton’s Paradise Lost • Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17-th century English poet John Milton. • The poem concerns the Fall of Man. • Adam and Eve are tempted by God’s fallen angel Satan.
Satan is Curiously Appealing • Or so says the Romantic poet, artist, critic William Blake • The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it. • — From The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (ca. 1790–93)
Hmm…let’s think about this… • Compare Satan (as Milton’s literary character) and Prometheus. • How are they similar? • How are they different? • Why are they both referenced in Frankenstein?
Hubris • What is Hubris? • What does it have to do with Frankenstein?
Your Pal: Aristotle…it’s his definition • Hubris --Greek word for pride or insolence. • Hubris is the defect of character that leads the tragic hero to disregard all warnings of impending disaster and thereby hastens the catastrophe.
Whew…Back to the definition of Romanticism… • But first, do you want to look at a painting by Goya? • He was a Romantic painter. • And he’s really awesome!!!
Goya– He’s the Man! • Here’s Saturn devouring one of his children.
Do you feel better now? I know I do!!!More on definition of Romanticism • Departure from established forms and conventions. • Shelley’s Frankenstein does this by mixing up various forms (letters, oral confessions, narration) and by including philosophy.
Epistolery Novel • A novel written in the form of a corespondence between characters. • Became popular in the 18th century when the novel was still new because it could make it seem as though the novel were a true account. Also give different viewpoints of different characters. • In what way does Frankenstein fit this form?
From the epistle (letter): • Robert Walton: • “One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought; for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.”
A Warning…Frankenstein’s Response • “Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drank also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me—let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!” • What is Frankenstein’s warning? What is the “intoxicating draught” that Walton should avoid at all costs?
Supernatural Elements • The Romantics loved bewitchings, hauntings and other events that violate natural laws and the ordinary course of events.
Shelley’s final novel • The Last Man • Set in 21st century, a plague destroys all of humankind except for one survivor, the novel’s narrator.
How’s that for aloneness? • Loneliness and alienation are central themes of Frankenstein and they mirror Shelley’s life. • Poor lass…let’s spy on her journal!
“To hang back, as I do, brings a penalty. I was nursed and fed with a love of glory. To be something great and good was the precept given me by my father; Shelley reiterated it…But Shelley died, and I was alone…My total friendlessness, my horror of pushing, and inability to put myself forward unless led, cherished and supported—all this has sunk me into a state of loneliness no other human being ever before, I believe, endured—except Robinson Crusoe...”
Or More Simply Alone---alone---all—all—alone Upon the wide, wide sea--- And God will not take pity on My soul in agony!
And finally… • How much does Frankenstein reflect its author’s life? • How much does it reflect ideals of the Romantic period? • How much does it become its own work, apart from biographical and historical context?