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Class Notes April 6, 2011: CLOSELY Reading Frankenstein

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Course Keeping:

    *On Monday, come to class with 3 questions for Mike Chorost
    *For Wednesday watch Teknolust. (available streaming on Netflix)
    *Class voted to watch TRON over Source Code for accessibility reasons
        -$4.99 on iTunes, short wait on Netflix for dvd

Feminist Readings / Critiques of Frankenstein (cont. from Mon):

    * Looks at Sofie's letters as the feminist core of the novel, and compares Sofie's and the creature's experiences. They are both limited in their ability to cultivate their spirits and are viewed merely as flesh. No one can see them as rational beings. Unlike, Walton's letters to his sister, Sofie's letters are answered and form a closed circle of correspondence.

    * Compares Frankenstein to Paradise Lost and Prometheus. Both Victor and Prometheus wanted to know too much.
   
    * Other critiques say these readings don't take the historical context of the readings into consideration enough. For example, domestic/ family life was not an ideal yet, so the deterioration of the family life was not yet a motif.

    * Marxist critique of Frankenstein read it with a sympathy for the working class, the creature = the working class.

    * Other critiques say Frankenstein is reflective of Shelley's ambivalence towards motherhood. Or, about female frustration with male immaturity.

Liz's Scientist Reading of Frankenstein:

    * p. 36, Chapter 4: Shelley captures Victor as a young man and the inquisitiveness and pride of scientific discovery. There is a notion of burden of responsibility that comes with the credit of discovery. Scientist are aware of this burden, but handle it differently. Many people believe there is an inherent good in science, and compartmentalize.

    * p. 144, Chapter 20: Ramification of discovery. Some modern examples are:
        -Drilling in Gulf for oil
        -Automatic Weapons
        -Nuclear bombs
        -Cloning Sheep
    How should responsibility be shared between the creator and the created?

    Anne: The end of letter 4, p.15: Ardently warns against scientific rationalism.
    Liz: Critique of the hubris of seeking knowledge. In modern times, the tension is still there. Knowledge for its own sake cannot be separated from use. There is tension in society, and tension within the individual scientist.

Exercise:
   
    kgould: beginning of Chapter 5, p42:  Looking at plastic surgery, the hubris of thinking one can improve on nature. The body parts used to make the creature were picked because of their individual beauty, but made a very ugly whole.
   
    Anne: If the features themselves were beautiful, what is ugly about the creature?
   
    aybala50: The re-assemblage makes it ugly, it's no longer from nature.
   
    Liz: The ugliness is in the contrast to the watery eyes and mouth of the creature, they represent the window to the soul and communication.
   
    Anne: The contrast of ugliness and beauty of monster makes it horrid.
   
    tangerines: How is it that Frankenstein didn't realize the creature was ugly before hand?
   
    kgould: Animation made it horrific.
   
    leamirella: Before he was caught up in the beauty he saw in the science.
   
    Anne: Were there any references to beauty before chapter 5?
   
    Hilary_Brashear: Yes. p. 38-9 conflates an ugly appears with an ugly nature.
   
    Anne: Why do we as humans do this?
   
    Merlin: We associate goodness with beauty, it's called the 'halo effect'.
   
    Liz: Is the opposite also true?
   
    Merlin: Yes, but if pretty people do bad things the backlash is even worse as well.
   
    tangerines: Is beauty objective? How does that work?
   
    aybala50: Babies will stare longer at more symmetrical faces.
   
    Anne: What is the source of our repulsion to ugliness?
   
    kgould: Before, beauty was associated with health, and ugliness with disease.
   
    TiffanyE: Society seals the fate of the creature, he wasn't born evil.
   
    jlebouvier: Chapter 12, p. 94. The creature doesn't see himself until he has already encountered other people. He was able to see the stark difference between the cottagers and himself.
   
    Anne: He makes the same assumptions as others, that ugliness = monster. Then he acts like a monster?
   
    tangerines: How do we know the cottagers are attractive? Babies don't understand the concept of ugly.
   
    End of Chapter 11, p.90 Refers to the beauty of the cottagers.

    Oak: The beautry is in communication, expression of feelings, his watery eyes are ugly due to their lack of expression.

    TiffanyE: Beauty is assumed in the way they are treated.
   
    m.aghazarian: Chapter 16, p. 122. The creature knows that no one beautiful would treat him well.
   
    ...
   
    Anne: Why would he not hate a female creature, he hates himself. Beginning of Chapter 20, p. 144.  The doctor fears her free will, that she may choose not to abide by the promise.
   
    aybala50: He's afraid of her having more human-like characteristics.
   
    jlebouvier: Victor doesn't go into how he made the creature. Was from dead people?
   
    Anne: It's a secret, but yes it is from dead body parts.
   
    jlebouvier: Doesn't he make some of the body parts?
   
    aybala50: Chapter 15, p.114. The creature thinks he is human. When he is recognized as human, he accepts it.
   
    Anne: Someone should write a paper on ugliness.
   
    ...
   
    leamirella: Chapter 10, p. 78. Haraway and Hayles. This passage has very thick description of the landscape, how would it cahnge if it came through different technology(actron)? How would it be read differently?
   
    Anne: Landscape isn't a good example to illustrate that point.
   
    Franklin20: I think it is a good example, because the passage is filled with value judgements from teh characters. The word "sublime" shows the characters' wonder.
   
    ...
   
    Chapter 5, p. 42.
   
    shin1068111: The intention of the scientist. What if he did succeed in creating a beautiful creature that was able to fit in society?
   
    Anne: The passion in this passage strikes me. We should be more moderate.
   
Other passages people considered:
   
    -Prometheus
   
    -Reprecussions of science/discovery
   
    -Theory of miseducation, reading of Paradise Lost
   
    -Barad's entanglements applied to Frankenstein and his Creature
   
    -Cosmetic Surgery
   
    -Failed education, Chapter 2. Frankenstein's boredom with history and politics
   
    -Frustration with male immaturity. The creatures request for a companion.
   
    -Moderation is important to humans for survival, Barad. Things rely on initial conditions.
   
    -Roughgarden and the diversity of science. Other studies are not continual discovery.
   
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I thought the class discussion regarding beauty and ugliness was really interesting. It made me think about the high level of importance we attribute to beauty, and how it can be really hard to deconstruct. Even in many critiques of the way we view beauty, the critique usually isn't about the value we give beauty, but rather about the way we define beauty. Oftentimes it seems that common attempts to deemphasize beauty are really counterproductive. For instance, the idea of "being beautiful on the inside" implies that beauty is equitable to a good personality or kind nature. Although the intent of the statement seems to be to highlight the importance of other positive aspects of a person besides beauty, it also reinforces the ideas we have of beauty. So too in many positive body image campaigns the initiative seems to focus on telling its audience that everyone is 'beautiful' rather than questioning what's so great about being beautiful in the first place. While I think it is important to challenge the current beauty standards, I think it's also equally important to remember we give beauty value, it isn't inherent.
 

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