Web Assignment

 

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Image 1: Using the Voyant tool, I was able to examine how life and death interact in the novel and where they intersect. Even though they are both constants in Frankenstein it is clear to see that there is more life than death, helping to prove that the novel, is in fact, about creation. There is only one point in the novel in which there is far more mention of death than life. Additionally, it appears that in almost the exact center of the novel there is no mention of either.

Image 2: I used the Bubblelines tool to mark the concept and use of time in Frankenstein. Even though the 1818 version of the novel uses more “time language” than its 1831 counterpart, they are both essentially conveying the same meaning. The chart tells us what an important role time plays in the novel and how it can be used to interpret the meaning.

Image 3: Using the textual arc tool allows voyant to read Frankenstein to someone, all while showing the connections between words. The most frequent words, such as father and life, clump in the middle while the less used words, like innocence and language are on the outer circle. I liked using this tool the best because it showed how the novel fit together and which terms were used the most

trees and novels

Unlike graphs and maps, trees allow one to connect the dots in a novel and see the cause and effect of a certain action. Trees enable a reader to follow a plot and by doing so can be especially helpful when reading gothic novels or mysteries, as Moretti points out. These works of fiction use clues to drive the plot forward and the clues only work if they are made comprehendible to the reader. If the reader is unable to create a tree of some sort then it is easy to lose interest in the plot. The joy in reading a mystery like a gothic novel is the ability to figure out the ending along with the main character or detective. Typically, mysteries include the following elements: a detective, suspense, trial and error, piecing together clues, a crime, a misdirect, a calling card at the crime scene, and, lastly, the solving of the mystery and apprehension of the perpetrator. A tree diagram allows from these components to be diagramed in a useful manner. Tree diagrams can also be useful in distinguishing between novels of the same genre. Take for instance The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho. Both are gothic mysteries that take place in a castle and contain the typical gothic villain, a virtuous young woman, and a hero. However, this is where the similarities end and a tree diagram would be able to chart exactly where the differences begin.

My Monster/My Self

Barbara Johnson utilizes a clearly feministic method of writing and thinking in her penning of the article “My Monster/My Self”. She links Victor’s creation of his monster to Mary’s creation of her novel and then proceeds to compare Victor’s abandonment of his monster to post partum depression. This article reminded me of a poem by Philip Larkin that I read in a creative writing class. It was called “This be the Verse” and iterates that all parents mess up their children whether they mean to or not. Johnson states, “there is inherently monstrous about the prevailing parental arrangements”. Johnson argues that Victor and his creation become parallel to one another because, even though, Victor was raised by two loving parents and the monster was abandoned at birth each “reach an equal degree of alienation and self-torture.” Although, I don’t necessarily agree with this statement, I do see the point Johnson intends to make and can understand how she came to that conclusion.

‘This be the verse’

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

 

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

 

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

What is an Author?

Foucault’s “What is an Author” seems to be written as a direct response to Barthes’ “Death of the Author”. While Barthes philosophy revolves around imagining as if the work in question does not have an author, Foucault continues to analyze what exactly constitutes an author and his text. While reading the article, I began to think about what would happen if all authors ceased to exist. This is not to say that there would be no writers producing work, but what would happen if no written work was attributed to an individual. Is this even possible in society? And then, what would constitute a text? If a quote is stated, but no author is given then it is just an opinion floating in the air. There could be no facts as nothing could be proven. Any medical or law journal that states what it believes is a fact, cannot be necessarily true as if there is no author attached to the work then the work can not be verified. Many times in an English class a professor will hand out a poem without the author’s name. Now, if a student were to be handed two poems and one was written by a well-known author and the other by the professor himself who’s to say the student would be able to differentiate one from the other? On the other hand, if the author’s name was stated alongside the poem the student will label the one written by the professor as amateur and the one written by the famous author as “deep” or “inspiring”. This will happen even if the student sees no meaning in the poem solely as a result of the name alone. Foucault then addresses the question of what constitutes a work. Is anything an author has written work? Should it be hung in a museum or sold online for hundreds of thousands of dollars simply because of the name attached to it? Foucault proves that defining an author and his work is not as simple as it appears to be and that everything must be questioned when it comes to the author.

Death of the Author

“Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing.” Barthes spends the length of his essay “The Death of an Author” explicating this one statement, picking it apart until the reader is also convinced that the author is truly dead. He goes on to say that as that the writing process can only begin once the author has died. In this respect, the author’s death is not simply death, but the suicide of the author as he is making that active choice to end his own voice to allow that of his characters to trickle through. Additionally, this is what truly characterizes an author as a “good” author. He is one that enables the reader to forget there is a man behind the curtain and that the fictional novel being read is, in fact, fictional.

If the author is truly dead, then there is no criticism that is able to analyze the life of said author, as the text is distinct from its writer. Of course, this is not to say the author cannot be critiqued on his own merits, but this should be done separately from the text.

When the author dies, the text becomes limitless. Instead of a voice behind each character, the reader is able to create histories and as a result able to imprint the text with his own life. This makes the text more readable and relatable and, as a result, the text becomes a part of the reader in addition to the author. “The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost.” It’s within these spaces that the reader becomes his own interpreter of the text. This idea relates back to Mallarmé’s theory of spacing and looking for what is not written as opposed to what is. As Barthes states the reader can only be born once the author has died.

Authorship

In the Chapter “Author” Donald E. Pease examines what exactly constitutes an author and expands on Ronald Barthes question of is the author dead? If we apply Pease’s theory to Frankenstein and, by extension, Mary Shelly we then have to read the novel through the Gynocriticism lens developed by Elaine Showalter. How exactly does Shelly assert her agency and convey her own life through the story of Frankenstein and which character does she most relate to? How did Shelly, clearly a female author, in 1818 get her work published in a patriarchal society? To answer this the reader must rediscover feminine history as it relates to authorship. Additionally, if we accept Pease’s explanation of separating the author from his or her text then it is the reader or critic who must add his or her own history to the text they are reading. Pease breaks away from Barthes in this manner, he states that the reader or critic must assert an agency to the text that the writer does not bring. If one takes Pease’s view as their own then it is clear why two people reading the same text can have different interpretations even though the words they are reading are essentially the same. This is where different theoretical schools begin to come into play. A novel like Frankenstein can be read by dozens of critics yet each will read the text to fit his own agenda and theoretical school, creating an entirely new interpretation from the same text as his peers. Therefore, even if we view the author as “dead” it cannot be said for certain that one’s interpretation of the work does not correspond to the author’s intention.

Who Speaks?

 

Generally there are three types of narratives an author chooses to use when writing a novel; first person narrative where “I” is used, third person where no “I” is used and each character is described by their name, and the less typical second person narrative in which the reader becomes the protagonist. Frankenstein shifts protagonists and thus shifts narratives. At the beginning of the novel Walton is the narrator and speaks in first person when addressing letters to his sister. When Victor Frankenstein is introduced Walton continues to refer to himself in first person. However, after the letters end and the story begins the narrative shifts; now it is Frankenstein’s story being retold by Walton to Walton’s sister. This out of the ordinary narrative creates a dilemma for the reader. Now that the narrative has shift the reader must distinguish between Frankenstein’s story and Walton’s own narrative. Furthermore, as the novel progresses and more characters are introduced the plot can become even more confusing as the reader must keep in mind that it is still Walton retelling the story and it is not taking place in real time. The reader is then caught in another predicament: after the letters end who becomes the protagonist of the novel? Is it Walton or Frankenstein? If one chooses to see Walton as the protagonist he must then read the novel as a story that Walton is retelling and as a result his own bias may show or he may add or change parts of the story to fit his own agenda. If Frankenstein is the protagonist then Walton is simply an object that Frankenstein is using to retell his story to. One may be able to see both as protagonists, taking turns as the novel shifts in narrative, but this may confuse both the meaning of the story and the reader.

Culler and Literary Theory

While discussing the nature of literature Culler brings forth five points, one of which examines the intertextual construct of a literary work. Frankenstein allows for a reader or theorist to apply a particular theoretical school causing the entire meaning of the novel to change in accordance with whatever lens the work is being examined through. In particular, Frankenstein’s entire meaning is changed through these schools. Yet Frankenstein’s meaning as a whole stays the same and its central themes and ideas remain unchanged. For example, if one applies the sphere of domesticity the novel becomes a domestic novel and should be read as such. As a result, Frankenstein then becomes critical of the feminine sphere of domesticity. We can come to this conclusion by examining Mary Shelley’s life alongside her novel. . She acted as both a writer and as the wife to a famous writer, Percy Bysshe Shelley. One can take this to mean that a great deal of tension existed in the home, but Shelley allowed her husband to critique and edit Frankenstein causing it to become a joint effort between the two. If one examines this through a domestic lens it can be taken as a defeat of Shelley, as a writer, in her personal life. Even the minuscule details that Percy Bysshe Shelley may have added or changed forces the novel to be examined through a different light, with the acknowledgment that not everything in the novel is Mary Shelley’s own thoughts or ideas.

Theory teaches us not to take anything as a given and that there is no common sense. If we approach a novel acting as though we know nothing then each sentence must be considered and with each word we must ask ourselves why this word and not another? In this respect theory is mean to be reflective and reflexive, meaning, we must ask “How do we know this?” and “Why do we know this?”. If we are then questioning everything we know more questions arise. If we know that the knowledge we are bringing into the work isn’t natural, but instead our surroundings or ourselves form it, then we must also know that this knowledge can be deconstructed, reexamined, and realigned in accordance with how we want to perceive the work. Then in order to apply theory to a situation we again must ask, “what should change about my thoughts or thought process and how can I bring about that change.” Each of these questions must be considered as we read a novel and forget all of the givens.