Voyant

My time with Voyant yielded some fascinating, if not seemingly obvious information.  Seeing as how a large portion of the novel is dedicated to horror, of a more industrial nature, I wanted to examine just want the connotations of science entailed in the novel.

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The first graph i made was a bubble lines comparison of the terms, “Father” shown in blue, “Science” shown in pink, “Happiness” in green, and “Misery” in purple.  Fascinatingly there seems to be a correlation between the instances of both “Father” and “Misery” though not a very pronounced one.  Misery however does coincide with science somewhat strongly as they both occur simultaneously in many instances.  There is interestingly a correlation between all four of them, but only very noticeably towards the beginning of the text.

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For the next image I wanted to see if there was a connection between Justine, Elizabeth, and Misery.  I threw science in for added measure, though that didn’t do much.  Elizabeth and Justine however seem to both be mentioned relatively frequently.  The peaks of their incidence coincide, though Elizabeth is more common.  Similarly misery seems to spike when they are mentioned as well.  Terrible as that sounds, clearly this is a thematic issue which can be used to trace the misery so prevalent in the novel.

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Finally i decided to see if science correlated with father, and sure enough it did quite strongly at the beginning.  This too exposes a tension underlying the text, as the implications of Victor’s science are far greater even on a syntactic level.

All of this reveals some interesting things about Frankenstein.  First, not to abuse a cliche but, Freud would have a field day with any of these implications.  Second, while it cannot be definitively said what this means, it cannot be said that there is no reason for these correlations even on a quantitative level.

Nature of the Linguistic Sign

In Ferdinand De Saussere’s Nature of the Linguistic sign he discusses the “primordial” natures of signifiers and what they signify, as well as the “material”.  The implication I found to be most interesting of this article is the idea that the signifier is not just arbitrary in it’s existence but rather indicates a relationship rather than simply being a sign.  This means that any word used to describe anything,  is used as such as a means of delineating the relationship between the signifier and the signified and so any word signifies not just what it refers to but rather it’s history and how and why something is named what it is.  This then makes the signifier, as Saussere states in the article a psychological device rather than simply a linguistic one.  On a wider level this then means that a work in any language operates on a level which activates these associations in the minds of the reader, which challenges the ideas of Barthes in Death of an author by virtue that when considered in this way any work is understood as operating, to a degree, independently of the author due to the nature of the very way it is understood as it is situated in the language it has been written in.  It’s an interesting idea especially when combined with all of the other pieces of theory  we’ve been reading to date.

The Author’s Name.

In his article “What is an Author?”  Michel foucault raises many intriguing points including the ethical implications of disregarding an author’s involvement in his work, what an author’s function is, and most importantly how the author’s name functions as  a construct and metric of their work.  Foucault discusses the way an author’s name is used.  He puts forth the idea that the author’s name, though it’s value is ascribed by societal means, is a factor which heavily contributes to the idea of a text being worth preservation or being considered a work.  An example is given in the form of Friedrich Nietzche’s writings and which of these deserve to be republished and preserved, Foucault asserts that at a societal level we choose what to attribute to a writer.  For instance published materials and drafts thereof hold more immanent significance than a to do list, but Foucault questions this.  Why are certain things attached to a name and not others?

This applies heavily to frankenstein in at least two ways.  The first is a meta textual one.  If Mary Shelley wrote frankenstein, though Percy acted as an Editor and may have perhaps added entire segments, why are they not both credited as such on publications of Frankenstein.  The entire authorial situation of the novel is questionable as multiple drafts existed, and it is not entirely clear who contributed more than the other to the final product, then according to foucault on a societal level this ambiguity is unethical.  This is perhaps why the vast majority of film adaptations of the novel have startlingly little in common with it.  Just as we can ask “does it matter who the author is” we can ask does it matter if people do not know the difference between Frankenstein and his monster?  Furthermore in the minds of many Frankenstein denotes not a mad scientist bent on discovering the limits of technology and human creativity, but rather the name immediately brings to mind images of Boris Karloff in a completely different design than that found in the novel.  Is this blatant disregard for the source material because a woman’s name is on the cover, or could it be symptomatic of the cloudy authorship and just who contributed what to which parts of the novel?  This is an important question as to Foucault the author is a function on a societal level.

Another question this brings to mind is how did the Shelley’s sell the novel for publication?  Was Percy’s name on it?  In that historical moment did he have more societal weight as a male author and is that the reason the text survived, albeit in several “Frankensteined” versions?  If this is the case could they both be authors, in terms of a societal function, even if Mary wrote the whole damn thing?

P.S who thought this was a good idea?  The name of the movie even enforces the ‘fact’ that the creature is named Frankenstein!

The Death of The Author

In Barthes Death of The Author, he describes a means of analyzing writing in a completely different manner.  It is asserted that, commonly, too much importance is placed on the role of the author when pulling meaning from a text.  The way to counter this is to kill the author in a figurative sense, and to pull apart the words and the way they are written paying no mind to the author.  This makes an incredible amount of sense especially when applied to Frankenstein.  When the authorship of Frankenstein is taken into account, particularly the edits made by shelly’s husband, one may obtain a different reading by trying to sort out how much can be attributed to which person.  If Barthes idea is applied to this situation, then it is not a question as to how much was the work of one person, but rather it can then be analyzed how the separate versions function independently of their authors.  This is interesting as in Frankenstein we are presented with a fictional author as well, and on a certain level if we have a dogmatic adherence to the idea of the author then we would have to analyze this author though they were real as well, which would prove to be problematic.

Though i agree with Barthes, and absolutely see the value in dissecting a text independent of it’s author, it would be a tad hypocritical to not question “The Death of the Author.”  separate from the idea of Barthes.  This can be approached in two ways.  Firstly why do we, so many years after it’s publication, still think to apply the ideas presented in “The Death of The Author?” if not because of Barthes credibility?  I’d say it’s because the ideas therein offer a sort of blueprint as to how to solely address a text, Sans author.

Secondly, The entire idea of delegating control to the reader relies on the idea that everyone will read the same thing.  Yes at a base level they will all read the same text, as in the same letters printed in the same order, but that in no way means that these symbols will denote the same meaning to all who see them.  If one completely disregards the author, then what was the point of it being written in the first place?  On this note, if the author does not matter, then what does genre matter?  Does it even have a function if the work can be dissected to the syllable independent of the author?  What’s the point of killing the author?  Does the reader gain something that they could not have obtained through their own interpretation?

Authorship

In Donald Pease’s article on the nature of what exactly constitutes an author, an evolution of the term is described.  This probe into authorship goes all the way back to the middle age word, auctore, or a writer who’s words commanded a certain level of respect or otherwise set the standards for their respective fields.  Aristotle is the example given in the text for this.  The idea of an author then evolved further into the 15th century genius, indicating a rise in social standing and respect.  Ultimately Pease eventually arrives at the idea that the definition of an author is so fractured that any true development would be quite difficult and therefore paradoxically requires a unification of meaning.  This however proves somewhat problematic when everyone from the person who writes a novel, a review, an article, or even a facebook post can in a way be considered an article.

It is easy to say abstractly that since say a novel is intrinsically no more than letters printed upon a page that it does not really matter who in truth put those words down on paper.  Subjectivity is unavoidable and therefore meaning can never truly be extrapolated, even if it is explained by the author, as no one hears or reads the same thing.  Following this logic then the printing press is as much complicit in the act of authorship as the person who was trying to convey meaning.  This relates to Frankenstein when it is considered that, we as the reader, are reading the letters of a fictional man to his fictional sister about a fictional lunatic in a fictionalized version of the arctic.  This entire framing device seems tangential but we do not discredit it as it serves to convey shelley’s meaning; the story of Frankenstein and his creature.  With this in mind it is prudent to consider that perhaps the author is not a singular person but rather a composite of historical circumstance, subjectivity, the meaning denoted in the text as well as the connoted meanings, and that the knee jerk idea of an author of being whoever it is that is leading the reader on a journey through a clever construction of words could be called something else entirely.

An author in the sense that I think, and that I think others may also, is a person in whom a modicum of trust is placed in the reader to facilitate the suspension of disbelief in the case of a novel, and to in the case of non fiction accurately relay information or narratives.  A good example of this would be the case of James Frey.  James Frey is a man who wrote a book called A Million Little Pieces.   This book was sold, and rose to be a national best seller, as a memoir.  The people, including one Oprah Winfrey, who bought and read this book were crestfallen to eventually find that large portions of the book were entirely fabricated.   (The interviews are online and are fairly interesting when viewed in this light, i would paste a link but i couldnt figure that out at the time of this writing.)  Another sterling example of such outrage is an astounding portion of the bibliography of the disgraced journalist Stephen Glass while working at the New Republic.  He, like Frey, fabricated entirely many stories. (A handful of fascinating interviews are online as well, but Glass has an entire movie devoted to his story called “Shattered Glass”.  Frey did not have a movie, but a very off color southpark episode parodying him titled “A million little fibers”)  In both these cases it became an issue of credibility, so i would like to assert that perhaps the true meaning of authorship lies somewhere in questions of credibility.

 

Austin and Idioms.

After reading Austin’s explanation of Performatives and constatives i thought of something that seemed to be a bit of a quandary.  By this I mean I believe that this idea of performatives and constatives is by no means exhaustive especially when the idea of idioms, or figures of speech, are considered.  If a performative denotes a concept, and a constative is like stating a fact then where do these expressions fit.  The example of saying ” I do” when getting married came up in class today, but that does not necessarily constitute a saying in my mind as it is a performative in the sense that as stated in class the abundant previous usage has given it it’s identity and meaning.  I wonder however where say ” a hot potato” fits in this idea.  The saying does not denote a literal heated starchy food item, but nor is it instructing one to do so.  One could argue that the meaning of this common phrase is given it’s meaning through virtue of it’s use, but that does not seem sufficient as there are multiple contexts and usages for a single expression as such.  It is not like “I do” where it produces a somewhat universal picture in one’s mind, in a given context.  It could be a game, but the phrase does not denote what the game would be played with.  Or if someone were to drop something like a hot potato it does not give a full picture.  I think that these kinds of expressions function as both performative and constative, but I wonder if I’m just over thinking it.

Furthermore what if you curse someone out?  That doesn’t seem like it’d fit into either category too.  Can there be something that is neither?