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Romanticism & The Gothic School of Thought. By Ms. Willis. Historical Context. 1789: The start of the French Revolution An attempt of the French people to ride themselves of their absolute monarchy. A bloody revolution; leaders became tyrants as well 1793-94: French Reign of Terror

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historical context
Historical Context
  • 1789: The start of the French Revolution
    • An attempt of the French people to ride themselves of their absolute monarchy.
    • A bloody revolution; leaders became tyrants as well
  • 1793-94: French Reign of Terror
    • British liberals lost all hope for true justice and equality in these years.
  • 1804: Napoleon crowned Emperor
the romantic movement 19 th century

The Romantics: Disheartened liberals revolting against:

    • Aristocratic social and political norms from the Age of Enlightenment
    • The scientific rationalization of nature
  • They sought: Solitude in nature as it:
    • Validated strong emotions
    • Was a good, natural source of the aesthetic experience
    • Emphasized strong emotions: terror, horror, awe, apprehension, sadness, happiness, etc.
    • Created the human experience and nurtured the human condition
  • They believed: The key to all emotional healing was in nature
The Romantic Movement (19th century)

Turning towards nature as an escape form the harsh realities of their world

elements of romanticism
Elements of Romanticism
  • The idea of the disenfranchised man was also very common:
    • Unable to live in society
    • Often revered or sympathized with
    • Frankenstein and his creature are both disenfranchised (we will find out why)
  • The Supernatural unleashed
    • Making ordinary, everyday things seem wonderful and awe-inspiring
    • Frankenstein is not real; however, it deals with human elements that are real
romanticism in a nut shell look it s me in a nutshell austin powers

“Romanticism embodied a new and restless spirit, seeking violently to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.”

Romanticism in a nut shell: “look, it’s me – in a nutshell” –Austin Powers

In the words of Isaiah Berlin

gothic literature
Gothic Literature
  • Offshoot of Romantic literature
  • Predecessor of modern horror movies in both theme and style
  • Put a spin on the Romantic idea of nature worship and nature imagery
  • Nature has the power to destroy; harsh realities of nature.
  • Many storms arise in the book, oftentimes surrounding a sea.
  • Most common feature: indication of mood through weather.
character development

Round Characters: Characters who are not fully developed

  • Flat Characters: Based solely on one trait or characteristic
  • Dynamic Characters: Develop through the course of the story
  • Static Characters: Do NOT develop throughout the course of the story
  • Foil: A character who is the opposite of another character used to shed light upon the character of the latter.
  • Catalyst: A character or event that starts a chain of events; first domino to fall and hit the other dominoes.
Character Development

Why character analysis is critical to the plot

characters in frankenstein static
Characters in Frankenstein- “Static”
  • Frankenstein Family, Elizabeth, and Justine: Used for the reason of Victor’s revenge. They exist only to be killed by the creature (or killed by society). Mrs. Frankenstein’s death is what makes Victor wish to create, and ultimately restore, life to inanimate objects.
  • Henry Clerval: Used as another reason for Victor’s revenge. He acts as a foil for Victor, showing how scientific and, often, un-Romantic Victor is-Shelley’s way of showing how Victor’s life could have been if not given to his passion for science.
  • Robert Walton: Shelley’s device that allows Victor to tell his story.
  • M. Waldman: Purely a catalyst for Victor to return to natural philosophy and continue his creation.
  • The Cottagers: Means through which the creature learns to speak and socialize. They are the singlemost important factor in making the creature long for human company.
characters in frankenstein dynamic


  • Through the course of his life, he evolves from being a happy and loving child with a love of knowledge, to a science-obsessed youth, to a broken and “wiser-for-the-wear” man.
  • Victor carries the moral of the story, as he changes his philosophy over his development:
    • Enjoy life or incessantly search for fame, glory, and knowledge?
  • The various sorrows he endures through his life, and his decade-long sense of guilt for having created such a murderous being, wear on him.
Characters in Frankenstein- “Dynamic”

Characters in Frankenstein- “Dynamic”

  • The Creature:
  • Begins life as a tabula rasa (clean slate).
  • No history, no family, nothing to help determine who he would become:
    • Only develops through the observation of others and through books.
  • He has no “God-given” tendencies; He only has POTENTIAL for everything.
  • Observes loneliness and rejection, then goodness: becomes good.
  • Revenge and sorrow become unchecked when he is rejected. The meanness of others teach him meanness.
  • He literally becomes what society makes him.