Thursday, March 4, 2010

Paper #2.1: “Savage and Enduring Scenes”: Close Reading Frankenstein

To assist you in examining our next texts as Gothic creations, I want to slow down and break the assignment into two components: (a) a focused close reading and (b) a theoretical application. This part of the paper, which I call Paper 2.1, is simply a close reading of a single passage from Shelley’s Frankenstein. What is a single passage? It can be as long as an entire page, or as short as a single paragraph. Your essay should provide a critical “close reading” of this passage on the level of language, theme, characterization, symbol/metaphor, and historical/cultural context.

How to do this? Let’s say I chose the following passage on page 89 (Chapter IX), which begins, “Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me…” and ends with “as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings.” I would read and re-read this passage carefully, and then consider what this passage is saying, why it is important to the narrative, to Frankenstein’s character, and to the philosophies of the Gothic in general. I would particularly note:

The setting: not only a Gothic setting, but one that evokes the sublime—particularly the Alps (the valley of Chamounix, the river Avre), which interested all the Romantics. Percy Shelly’s poem Mont Blanc takes place in exactly the same location. I would discuss how Shelley describes the setting (the words used, their connotations) and evokes the sublime.

Characterization: how does Shelley reflect on Frankenstein’s character and sensibility in this passage? What does he see? How does he process this? Is he responding “romantically” to his surroundings? Do his responses illustrate an “innocent” character? Or has he been ruined by experience?

Literary Context: other passages in Walpole, Austen, or other works that this seems akin to. Why place the main character out in nature and arrest the plot in the process? Why might this be a particularly Gothic convention? What “story” does this tell?

Symbol/Theme: reading on, we know that Frankenstein encounters his Creation here for the first time. Why here? Is this significant? What in the passage might provide a clue for what happens in the following pages? How might his experiences/reflections here be symbolic of the work itself—and the precarious relationship between Master and Creation?

• 2-3 pages, double spaced
• No outside sources (unless you want another primary source for context); just the text is required
• Integrate the quotation into your discussion: don’t quote it and then discuss it. Work on explicating what you read and how you read it. Make connections for the reader based on the actual words. Balance analysis and summary. And don’t assume that the quote speaks for you!
Due NEXT FRIDAY, MARCH 12 by 5pm

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