Search Results for: frankenstein

Alchemy, Ring Writing, Doppelgangers, and Arabian Nights: The Artistry and Meaning of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’

I’ve just finished a hurried reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus, a book I haven’t read in too many years. In the hopes of encouraging others to pick it up again, I risk making observations about its structures and predominant symbolism which the two centuries of critical literature almost certainly have raised and, as likely as not, dismissed for valid reasons. I’m certain that serious readers of popular fiction will recognize several of the ideas below as the heart of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent (not to mention Twilight!). I ask your forgiveness in advance for whatever degree I have seen or ‘found’ only what I wanted to find, even allowing that perhaps having eyes to see such things is the only means of perceiving them.

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Was Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein an Alchemist? Introducing the ‘Potter as Pearl Harbor’ Thesis

The News from Summit Entertainment this week (H/T to James!) is that the Twilight film makers understand something of what made the Forks Saga the bonanza it has been for them. I’m pretty confident they’d call it “paranormal romance” and “love triangle” rather than “literary alchemy” or “soul triptych” but those of you who have listened to my talks on Harry Potter and Twilight that I gave last weekend at the Eighth Day Institute will recognize the features. From the MTV article, ‘Summit Entertainment To Bring Frankenstein to Life:

Summit Entertainment’s already worked box office magic with vampires and werewolves, but can they do the same for Frankenstein (the mad scientist, not the monster)? According to Deadline, the studio behind “The Twilight Saga” has acquired the screen rights to the upcoming YA novel “This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein” by Kenneth Oppel, which hits bookstores August 23.

The novel is a prequel of sorts to Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein.” The plot centers around young Victor Frankenstein and his quest to save sick twin brother Konrad. He seeks help from a mysterious alchemist, who sends Victor and his friend Elizabeth on a dangerous journey to find the three ingredients needed to create a serum called the Elixir of Life that will heal Konrad. Like any YA novel worth its salt, the inevitable love triangle ensues.

Checking out the Amazon page Book Description, we learn the trio’s hero journey has three stages:

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Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Alchemy Chapters

I’m writing today  — scroll up! — about the Summit Entertainment plans to film the Frankenstein pre-quel This Dark Endeavor. I wanted, though, to put up a few chapters from the original Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley classic before this to give you a chance to read the chapters in which Dr. Frankenstein’s modern genius, of which the book is largely a critique, is revealed as the worst of alchemy and chemistry combined.

Without further ado, then, Shelley’s Frankenstein, the opening alchemy chapters.

Chapter 2

I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright visions of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self. Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery, for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys. Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate; I desire, therefore, in this narration, to state those facts which led to my predilection for that science.

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J. J. Marsh’s ‘Behind Closed Doors:’ Did Cormoran Strike Begin as a Bet that Rowling Made with Two Old Friends?

Rowling tweeted last month that “one of my best friends, who lives in Spain,” had sent her a video of an accomplished guitarist.

I asked Nick Jeffery who this “best friend” of Rowling might be and he, as always, had a good guess:

My guess (and it is a guess) is Aine Kiely, one of the Godmothers of Swing from the Prisoner of Azkaban dedication. She fits the bill as ‘one of her oldest friends’ and is currently working and living in Spain. The other Godmother of Swing, Jill Prewett, writes detective fiction under the name J J Marsh and lives in Switzerland. Both have holidayed with JKR in recent years.

I was struck by Nick’s aside that one of Rowling’s oldest and dearest friends writes detective fiction. I had read Prewett-Marsh’s 2013 interview with Rowling, one of the best, but hadn’t known the journalist here was a writer, too. I see now that Rowling mentions Ngaio Marsh twice in that very bookish discussion, the most frequently cited interview, I think, in our list of Rowling references to books and authors she likes.

I ordered, consequently, an omnibus or Box Set edition of J. J. Marsh’s first three Beatrice Stubbs novels: Behind Closed Doors, Raw Material, and Tread Softly. My thought was to check if these books, written by Jill Prewett and published at the same time as Rowling-Galbraith was planning and writing the Strike series, had any obvious over-laps with the more famous Cuckoo’s Calling and subsequent four books.

I read the first Stubbs book, Behind Closed Doors, last weekend and think there may indeed be a connection, a fun one.

Three notes before I connect those dots, all after the jump: [Read more…]

Mary Shelley’s ‘The Last Man’ — A Plague Novel for Pandemic Readers

There are quite a few reading lists for those at home during Pandem-Mania 2020, especially for those readers on furlough from work-at-the-office as well as those confined to home and unemployed who want their imagination to feed on apocalyptic stories of plague, pestilence, even influenza. For a sampling of these lists, see here, here, here, here, and here.

I am neither staying at home nor unemployed; my Muggle job that pays my bills whilst I write my thesis is in a grocery store which the state of Oklahoma has deemed an “essential business” akin to marijuana dispensaries and abortion clinics and unlike casinos and churches. It has been, consequently, a relatively unstressful time for me as my daily routine has only been changed in how I must dress at work (face mask required) and the atmosphere of fear the grocery store customers bring to their shopping. I wish that these small troubles were the rule for HogwartsProfessor readers during this unprecedented lockdown and pray that it ends soon, ends well, and that the country is back to work and free of this contagion.

I did order a copy of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s The Last Man and read it. Forgive me if this confession is disappointing to you but I had never heard of the novel before seeing it one of the lists above and I consider myself a great fan of Frankenstein. I have written three posts at this website on the alchemy and chiastic structure of that novel and have spent more time than I should perhaps in private meditation on its relationship with Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner,’ a poem the young Mary Wollstonecraft overheard at its first reading by the poet to her parents.

In brief, The Last Man is the first person narration of Lionel Verney of his experiences in the United Kingdom from the years 2073 to 2100. It has only just survived in print rather than flourished as has Frankenstein largely because it is assumed to be Shelley’s portrayal in fiction of her life with Percy Shelly and Lord Byron, and, more recently, because it seems to be the first post-apocalyptic novel to reach print and a major audience (cue cat-calls and counter-claims). I confess to being largely indifferent to both these critical concerns; my hope in purchasing the Dover facsimile reprint of the 1826 first edition was that Mary Shelley’s reflection on life in the time of plague would be as challenging and insightful as her critique of biological and medical science in Frankenstein.

I was disappointed in this hope, alas. The plague does not appear on the scene until Chapter 2 of Volume 2, page 130 of a 341 page book and only in Volume 3 does the action of the story turn entirely on the effect of the disease on the country and the principal characters. The writing is wonderfully or interminably florid depending on your taste for such things, the far-distant future is envisioned as being almost exactly as life in the Edwardian period except for the Wollstonecraft wish-fulfillment fantasy of the monarchy being disestablished (and the rightful king eventually becoming the country’s savior by election…), and the relationships and fates of the heroic Adrian, Lord Raymond, Lionel and their wives and loves are, again, melodramatic in a way that only Romantic era writers would attempt and that only those with a taste for what approaches camp will enjoy.

I recommend it, nonetheless, beyond my enjoyment of this kind of writing which idiosyncrasy you may share.

For one thing, the conceit of how Shelley finds the manuscript of a first person account from the future without aid of a Time Machine is absolutely first rate. It’s all shared in the introduction, which you can read online here in only a minute or three, so I won’t ruin it for you. 

For another, any three volume publication of this period, not to mention one written by an artist of the proven alchemical and chiastic structure and style concerns of Mary Shelley, is an exercise book for careful reading by serious readers.

And religious and medical professionals — not to mention politicians — do not come off well in this book, at least during the plague time of the novel’s last two volumes. Shelley rips into the idols of democratic government and progress with no mercy given. The Romantic disdain for scientism and exoteric religious ritual is a pre-modern assault on modernity’s empty positivism and serves as a corrective, even a disinfectant to the excesses and corrosive ennui of postmodernity. Those critical of institutional responses to Covid-19 by church, science, and state will find that Shelley is something of a prophet in The Last Man

Last, Constantinople is won from the Turks by crusading Greeks. It doesn’t end well for the Great City or the invaders, but, still, for an Orthodox Christian reader and closet Byzantine, this temporary victory was almost worth the effort to get there — it is the story pivot, believe it or not — and the disaster of the unfolding plague that follows.

I hope in the comment boxes below that you will share your thoughts on The Last Man  if you have read it. Failing that, please let me know what you are reading of English literature’s vast stream of plague novels.

And, failing that, go ahead and share your experiences of the lockdown. I only ask that, if you choose to ‘go there,’ that you try not to share your feelings about those who are entirely on board with the shutdown of the economy if you are not and vice versa. I’d much rather read about what you’re reading and thinking than your acceptable window of righteousness defined by social distancing compliance and hypochondriac over-kill. De gustibus.