ENG 334 Blog Post #1

ENG 334 Blog Post #1

Compare your own prior reading of Frankenstein to the Critical History. How have you interpreted the novel? Where might you position yourself within the critical history? Do you seem to follow one perspective or to work among many critical approaches? Is there anything in the history that surprises you?

      The last time I read Frankenstein (or rather, the last time I read the Sparknotes from Frankenstein) was my senior year of high school. I don’t remember much of the class discussion, other than to say it mostly revolved around the fault of the monster’s actions and other aspects of the work itself. It wasn’t until I started reading the book again, and subsequently the Critical History, that I began to view Shelley’s work through a broader lens, paying more attention to cultural context. I’ve realized that the question shouldn’t merely be about which character or force is responsible for the death and despair that plagues the novel, but rather what Shelley was trying to accomplish by writing and publishing a volume to be consumed by the general public. Who is her intended audience? Does the interpretation of the text change based on the fact that it was written in the early 19th century, or that Shelley is a female?

      One approach in the Critical History that I find really interesting is the question of whether Frankenstein belonged (or belongs) in the realm of low-culture or high-culture; that is to say, I believe, whether it is meant to be a popular horror story or a serious work addressing real moral dilemmas. On page 271, it is noted that some critics attempt to “rescue” Frankenstein by “taking her philosophical and political ideas seriously”. I don’t feel as though I’m in a place yet where I can decide whether her ideas should be taken seriously in a manner that distinguishes her work as either a fun and scary story or a philosophical masterpiece; my first gut reaction upon reading this, though, was to be almost offended at the fact that the deep moral messages in Frankenstein were questioned at all. Is she not taken seriously because she is a woman? Am I thinking about this completely wrong? Do I even understand what I’m trying to say right now??

      Overall, I think I’d put myself in the post-1970 category of criticism that focuses on several aspects of Shelley and her work at once. It seems as though there are more questions than answers.

4 thoughts on “ENG 334 Blog Post #1

  1. When you say it took a second reading to understand the cultural context, would you say analyzing the cultural contexts of a work, as well as the author’s life, is important for a critical approach to a work, or in this case, “Frankenstein?” You also question who her intended audience might be. Did you have any idea of who that may be? Personally, I do not think she was directed it at one group or individual, but was rather meant to send a moral message to any who may be reading it. I think that because it is written in the 19th century and because Shelly is a woman, this does not mean our interpretations of the work need change, but it does mean these factors need to taken into account.
    I like how you mentioned the high and low class culture approach to “Frankenstein,” since I also mentioned that in my post. To answer one of the questions you were asking yourself, I think “Frankenstein” can both be a scary story and a philosophical masterpiece, and I think there is plenty of textual support to argue both.

  2. Similar to you, I had only really read Frankenstein in the most general, least in-depth sense of reading a text and so I was suprised when I reread it and began to to engage with the critical interpretations of it. I think it is interesting to consider the implications of the text being considered as either “high” or “low” culture as Shelley does seem to impose political and philosphical notions in her work. I think that to read it with an understading of either feminism and the role of hyper-masculinity, or even the role of race, changes the meaning and the messages of the work. Though there is not necessarily one truth, or one correct interepretation, it is definitely vital to attempt to understand the meaning behind the authors intentions.

  3. This was my first time reading Frankenstein and I too did question why in fact this piece if literature did belong in the realm of “high culture”. Yes I would say the novel does encompass many strong motifs and themes, but what made it worth studying year after year for 200 years? The answer to this didn’t become apparent to me until or last class discussion concerning this topic. This novel is places on the high culture shelf because of its ability to reach so many different people in so many different ways. It’s like a said in class, this novel is like a really good teacher. A teacher has the goal of teaching content, but a good teacher teaches their students far more than just the course content, sometimes without even knowing it. Good writing is the same way, the author may have written a piece with one intent in mind, however the writing can also lend itself to many different discussions and lessons learned.

  4. Hey Grace!
    I like your point about considering the audience and speculating how it may influence the author’s work. Especially as English majors and future writers, it is important to keep this perspective in mind.

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