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Frankenstein 2


Frankenstein 2 Outline Frankenstein a subversive novel? Subversion and containment Realism and nineteenth-century fiction The afterlives of Frankenstein Gothic ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Frankenstein 2

Frankenstein 2
  • Frankenstein a subversive novel?
  • Subversion and containment
  • Realism and nineteenth-century fiction
  • The afterlives of Frankenstein
  • Gothic times

A subversive novel?
  • Fs subversiveness articulated in terms of a
    re-turn of the repressed of the repressed
    under-side of bourgeois consciousness (Lovell)
  • This subversiveness arguably an element of
    several reviewers hostility towards the novel
  • . . . another Raw-head-and-bloody-bones
    (Lit-erary Magnet) the monstrousness of MSs
    novel a threat to bourgeois order (i.e. realism)
  • See Marilyn Butlers Introduction to Oxford World
    Classics ed. of F (1994), p. xlv . . .

A subversive novel?
  • MB The novels first reviews tended to be
    critical. . . . Though published anonymous-ly, it
    had a dedicatee, whose name app-eared before the
    title-page, William God-win. The association with
    the old radical was probably enough to secure the
    dis-approval of conservative journals such as the
    Quarterly Review and the Edinburgh Magazine and
    Literary Miscellany

A subversive novel?
  • The novels dedication
  • TO
  • Author of Political Justice, Caleb
    Williams, c.
  • Are respectfully inscribed
  • BY

A subversive novel?
  • William Godwin Marys father radical author
    from the 1790s Political Justice an anarchist
    treatise Caleb Williams a Jaco-bin novel
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Marys mother (died 1797)
    radical feminist author of A Vindi-cation of the
    Rights of Men (1790) and A Vindication of the
    Rights of Woman (1792)

A subversive novel?
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley Marys husband (married
    1816 after having eloped to the Continent
    to-gether in 1814) republican atheist poet
    author of The Necessity of Atheism (1811), Queen
    Mab (1813)
  • Lord Byron close personal friend of the
    Shel-leys author of politically radical poetry
    scourge of the establishment instigator of the
    ghost story competition that gave rise to
    Frankenstein in the summer of 1816 at Lake

A subversive novel?
  • MSs connections to Godwin, Wollstone-craft,
    Percy Shelley, and Byron signal that the author
    of Frankenstein is likely to be a politically
    radical figure
  • MSs connections plus the Gothic mon-strosity
    that is her novel called F are what, together,
    guarantee the critical hostility evident in the
    conservative press

A subversive novel?
  • But just how subversive is F, notwithstand-ing
    its basic message about the uncon-scious
    deathliness of modern scientific practices?
  • Similarly, just how subversive is F as a re-turn
    of the bourgeois repressed?

Subversion and containment
  • Opinions differ as to whether or not F is a
    gen-uinely or a superficially subversive text
  • See Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy the Literature of
    Subversion (1981) and Mary Poovey, The Proper
    Lady and the Woman Writer (1984), respectively
  • Perhaps it is appropriate to speak of not just
    subversion but also containment where MSs threat
    to realist moderation, rationality, and
    pragmatism is concerned . . .

Subversion and containment
  • After all, what happens to the monster the
    focus of MSs subversiveness in the full
    working out of the F story?
  • Answer he becomes absorbed into the text of
    Waltons letters
  • Symbolically, Gothic subversiveness (the monster)
    becomes absorbed by neutral-ized by realist
    order (Waltons letters)

Subversion and containment
  • MSs novel designed in such a way as to ensure
    that the story of Frankenstein and his monster is
    contained by the frame narrative constructed in
    terms of Waltons letters to his sister Margaret
  • The above epistolary part of the novel is
    generically realist Walton, through his account
    of Victor Frankenstein, is con-cerned simply to
    relate reality

Subversion and containment
  • Just as the realist epistolary frame nar-rative
    of F contains the whole fantastic story of
    Victors scientific experiments (to say nothing
    of this latters containment of the monsters
    story), so the subversive-ness of MSs Gothic
    fantasy about scien-tific monstrosity is
    contained by everything that is orderly and
    realistic about the Wal-ton letters to Margaret

Subversion and containment
  • MSs novel represents the struggle of the
    repressed Gothic against dominant real-ism
  • But in the end, it reads as a narrative of
    subversion and containment Gothic
    sub-versiveness is contained by realist order

Subversion and containment
  • What finally secures F as a narrative of
    subversion and containment is precisely that
    small, connecting phrase which ap-pears in ch.
    XXIV Walton, in continu-ation.
  • The phrase itself connects sutures the text
    of Victor Frankensteins journal to the frame
    narrative that is Robert Waltons own epistolary

Subversion and containment
  • Walton, in continuation works in such a way as
    to facilitate the absorption of everything that
    Walton describes as strange and terrific
    about Frankensteins story into the more
    commonplace world of Waltons communications to
    his sister
  • Walton is, precisely, that figure who could never
    have such strange and terrific adventures as
    Frankenstein, notwithstanding that the two men
    are both explorers

Subversion and containment
  • See Waltons last letter to his sister I am
    return-ing to England. I have lost my hopes of
    utility and glory (ch. XXIV)
  • In the end, Robert Walton seems more like an
    ordinary Edward Waverley than a strange or
    terrific Victor Frankenstein Walton another
    instance of the middle-of-the-road hero (or
    prosaic anti-hero!) made popular in Waverley
  • In this light, Walton is of course a man who
    would never suppress his family ties and
    con-nections, hence his letters to his sister

Subversion and containment
  • Walton, in continuation, then, represents the
    mark of realist narrative containment of Gothic
    fictional subversion in MSs text (compare,
    brief-ly, the role of Lockwood as narrator in
    Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
    similarities and differences)
  • F is a subversive novel but, in practical terms,
    only up to the above point of subversiveness
    itself being contained by realisms world of all
    things commonplace and ordinary

Realism and nineteenth-century fiction
  • The newly dominant realism of such early 19C
    works as MP and W is challenged but not
    overthrown by Gothic fiction (super-natural
    tales, the literature of terror, etc.)
  • If anything, a hegemonic realism grows stronger
    as the 19C unfolds
  • Jane Eyre (1847) realist autobiograph-ical
    account of Janes development (done with some
    secondary Gothic elements)

Realism and nineteenth-century fiction
  • Jane Eyre Janes realist approach to life is
    shown as winning out against the alter-native
    approach associated with Blanche Ingram as a
    typical heroine of romance
  • Middlemarch (1871-2) Note the indebt-edness of
    George Eliots study of pro-vincial life to the
    contents of MP (. . . in-terest in the details of
    ordinary life, etc.)

Realism and nineteenth-century fiction
  • Middlemarch Note, too, GEs indebtedness to
    WSs historical novel in that M is a historical
    novel about the 1832 Reform Act
  • Realism no more powerfully dominant in fiction
    than in the first three quarters of the 19C (note
    the return of Gothic fantasy in the late 19C
    Ste-venson, Gilman, Wilde, Stoker, etc.)
  • Beyond this, a still ongoing tendency to dismiss
    the Gothic as non-serious reveals the existence
    of continuing tensions between the Gothic and
    realism into the early 21C

The afterlives of Frankenstein
  • The history of the afterlives of F one
    par-ticularly revealing place where the
    con-tinuing tensions between the Gothic and
    realism are exhibited
  • The popularity of F today amongst readers of the
    novel and viewers of the film adapt-ations
    suggests the fragility of the sub-version and
    containment dimension of MSs novel

The afterlives of Frankenstein
  • Fragility? the monsters subversiveness is
    contained within the novel (Waltons last letter
    makes it clear that the monster is shortly to
    take his own life), but subversion itself is
    brought back to life through the af-terlives and
    sheer popularity of F
  • The popularity of F today is a manifest-ation of
    the uncontained, live subver-siveness of the

Gothic times
  • F as a novel is popular all over again today
    be-cause, arguably, today we live in Gothic times
  • See Christopher Frayling, We live in Gothic
    times . . ., in Martin Myrone, ed., The Gothic
    Reader (2006), pp. 11-20
  • Compare the idea for Gothic Nightmares (2006) at
    Tate Britain the present day marks a return of
    Gothic times from the 1790s

Gothic times
  • CF as themes within the wider culture, the
    Gothic, horror and fantasy have never been so
    widespread and deep-rooted at least not since
    England in the 1790s. We are indeed, as Angela
    Carter put it in 1974, now living in Gothic
    times (p. 16)
  • CF on the new, post-1970s Gothic times of
    modernity . . .

Gothic times
  • CF normality has itself become strange
    through postmodernism with its hall of mirrors,
    its fascination with simulacra, for-geries and
    the artificial, its suspicion of natural
    appearances and its emphasis on intertextuality
    rather than authorial in-tention the twilight of
    the real has proved spookily appropriate to the
    Gothic (pp. 17-18)

Gothic times
  • In other words, the age of virtual reality has
    become the setting for a shift from the margins
    to the mainstream on the part of the Gothic
  • (To illustrate the mainstreaming of Gothic, CF
    cites Damien Hirst feeling like Dr Frankenstein
    at work in producing popular art in the shape of
    dead cows in formalde-hyde (p. 16))

Gothic times
  • In so-called Gothic times the old
    counter-positioning of realism, on the one hand,
    and Gothicism, on the other, still exists
  • CF pointedly reminds us of an embattled kind of
    defiance of the literary establishment . . . with
    its . . . preference for the realist tradition
  • I.e. the literary establishment still decidedly
    anti-Gothic, as it was in the days of the
    Quarterly Re-view and the Edinburgh Magazine

Gothic times
  • A postmodern blurring of the distinction between
    forms of high and low culture (hall of
    mirrors, fascination with simul-acra, etc.)
    means however that the old cleavage between
    dominant realism and repressed Gothic is no
    longer recogniz-able
  • A diffusion of a formerly repressed Gothic occurs
    into the early 21C

Gothic times
  • This Gothic turn in the culture now deter-mines
    that we live not in realist but in Gothic times
  • . . . Gothic arguably loses its subversive edge
    the more mainstream it becomes
  • See MS Gothic (!), as well as the way that
    Damien Hirst has become the new Victor