Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

vgaffney's picture

Class Notes: April 4, 2011

 Notes for April 4, 2011: Reading Frankenstein

I.     Course keeping: Panel Reflections

  • Franklin20: thought it was useful, but didn’t like breaking up into small groups, with each person only getting a chance to speak once before quickly moving on
  • Shin1068111: there were some questions that panelists weren’t prepared to answer. Although, Professor Dalke pointed out that these questions had the potential to turn into interesting paper topics.
  • Merlin: liked the interconnections between different groups
  •  Overall Goal of the panel: broaden the discussion
  •  Suggestions:
  • M.aghazarian:  people could come up with specific roles to play within the panel framework
  • Prof. Dalke: worth it to keep playing with it?

 II.    Finishing third section of course

  • Looking at postings—common theme: eliminating distinctions between virtual and physical bodies: return to Haraway’s ideas: what still resonates? 
  • leamirella: Perhaps it’s more accessible now, as opposed to the abstract (when we first read her)
  • Bryn Mawr Outsider Spoof—Berthnians (?): species with 300 genders
  • Postings on novel for this week—respond to postings from MIT students (on sticky); try to make more of a conversation between two classes

 III.  Frankenstein: initial reactions

  • HillaryG: fun to read a novel—genre itself
  • Jlebouvier: stark contrast to film adaptations (where F.’s creature seems dumb, with no ability to learn language, and anger as sole emotion)—interiority more available
  • Tiffany: cool cyborgian element—Frankenstein as prototype for cyborg

IV.  Exercise: thinking about what authors would say about the novel we’ve read

  • How to integrate Frankenstein into a group: pick one of 5 authors and jot down notes about how they would foreground/celebrate/valorize etc. the novel
  • Haraway and Clark: cyborgian account; Roughgarden: diversity; Dull, West, Banales: Cosmetic Surgery; Parens and Hausman: surgical alteration of self; Turkle: represent self virtually; Rowe and Grobstein: presenting info; Hayles: roles of digital processing in your reading; Ada’s mom; Subramaniam: feminist science studies; Barad: entanglement, intra-action
  • Jlebouvier 1: couple of authors—Haraway and Roughgarden—monster as containing emotion and ability to learn—demonic, but has human traits; binary human/non-human. Gender of monster-> he? Reproductive capacity? He uses human-created pronoun; appears to be attracted to women, yet describes men as attractive/beautiful. Taught by humans that each gender should like the gender.
  • Barad-> How do we know he’s not being honest? Why can’t he have a companion? (Prof. Dalke-> epistemological concerns come into play). Roughgarden: species diversity—what this is
  • Fawei: observer is part of phenomenon (Barad). Frankenstein always trying to get away from monster, monster comes closer. Romantic notions. Barad: end product is humans are part of nature, already entangled with it. Dalke: critique of rationalism—fits into Romantic framework
  • M.aghazarian: Roughgarden would have wanted monster to reproduce. Monster wanted a companion. Victor was worried about reproduction. What Frankenstein must have thought of himself to think he could create a new reproductive species.
  • Jlebouvier: semi-implied that he wants to reproduce
  • Riki: very small gene pool- they’d have to “start” the diversity—just two members
  • Jlebouvier—monster is built from scraps, child wouldn’t be made out of scraps—more humanlike offspring?
  • Tangerines: creating creature—monster as ‘everyman’. ‘Creature’ as representative of everyone—different parts more diverse? Different pieces put together—using pre-made scraps, following a model. Taking Ada’s story as a lens to read F.
  • Shin1068111: scientific perspective/ curiosity—uncontrolled variables
  • MissArcher2: consequences of thinking you can supersede natural processes—might feel kinship to victor: comparing Emmy’s daughter to creature
  • Spreston: Dull, West and Benales: necessity of surgery—nice, compassionate people won’t speak to Frankenstein—can’t see passed deformity—humanizing qualities of surgery
  • Aybala: creation of ‘monster’ as not a product of Frankenstein, but the social world. Parens—not body that’s disordered but society—social education
  • Tiffany: surgery—different solution: realistically surgery better option
  • Katherine: Turkle—how creature would represent himself online—rich social life online
  • HillaryG: Frankenstein performs a version of himself through the creature—in response to his own grief—creature representation of himself to master nature; creature to extend himself
  • Ekthorp: to what extent in Dr. F. his monster—we often confuse their identities—creature becomes avatar of Victor (Dalke)—finding representation of himself
  • J.Yoo: Turkle—creature’s “self”—blind father’s account: creature allowed to construct different identity. Representation to a blind man analogous to online representation
  • Merlin: entanglement of F. and creature (Barad); lives are entangles
  • leamirella: Hayles: signet classic—canonized text—almost forced to read closely because of form/genre. Would it be published in this form today? Online version? Diff. possible interfaces—would it be so canonized?
  • Kate: interested in how films affect reader; cultural capital doesn’t allow for it to be read fresh
  • Franklin20: debate the cyborgian conception—seems to be more organically formed—human scraps—victor seems more cybernetic than the monster. Creature learns to use technology—fact that he has to learn pushes against this reading
  • Cara: we’re cyborgs and we incorporate tech.—not mechanical parts, biological parts—where the self is. Dalke- creating human through recycled human parts—incorporating the bio. Into the mechanical
  • Marina: tech. integration of creature extension of self; tension between technology and human
  • MSA322: intersection—victor creates creature as extension, wants to master nature; extending to gain power—authority led creature to be uncontrollable

V: Feminist readings/ A Novel of (Failed?) education

  • Novel could be read as a critique of science. What is Victor educated for—is his tragic end the result of his ed? What end does his education serve? The monsters?
  • Theme: pedagogy

VI.  Narrative technique: challenges 1 authorial voice—novel challenges the “God trick”—talking about world from outside world. Five narrators—Walton, Victor, creature, Victor, Walker. Normal-> abnormal

  • Showcases female spectatorship: audience for walton’s letters is his sister—we are put in her position—she is occasion, subject, recipient
  • --she doesn’t respond: create with open frame
  • Creative exercise—what would she write back?
  • Reversal of Arabian night—author telling tales to keep from death
  • *Read as a feminist novel on grounds of content: projected Shelley’s ambivalence of motherhood—Victor’s revulsion, guilt, anxiety—flees room. Novel reflection of S’s anxiety
  • Biological mother scientist—biographical reading highlights proximity of birth to Shelley
  • *dream of independence from biology and motherhood
  • *Read creature as woman—marginalized and outcast
  • Creature as Eve—source of sin and death. Creature as “motherless”  
  • -objectified for how you look: repr. In novel as male ugliness—his soul is thought to be as hellish as his frame – women gazed at, interpreted and read based on external appearance
  • Ugliness=evil
  • *victor destroys female creature because can’t control her—fear of her independent free will
  • *male-centeredness: tale of male-bonding and male brokenness. Fantasy of aggression against women—destruction of female creature; male immaturity, masculine violence. Critique as scientific takeover of female body—born out of filthy laboratory
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: advocated intellect over emotion—Shelley’s  husband rails against this as great romantic poet. Segregation of ambition and domesticity à degrees of passion; critique of fatherhood
  • *Most interesting: see novel as critique of power of rationality—daughter’s critique of mother’s philosophy
  • Novel—suggests that Shelley’s novel argues that ugliness can’t be seen rationally: body is his fate


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
1 + 7 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.