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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Jane Eyre 7: A Lesson on Authorial Intent from Jasper Fforde’s Literary Detective Thursday Next

As we wrap up our wonderful visit with the delightful Miss Eyre and her creator, the equally delightful Charlotte Bronte, we will spend this last post on a rather unconventional visit to Thornfield in a luridly painted sports car with literary detective Thursday Next, whose exploits in The Eyre Affair cast the story of Jane and Rochester in a whole new light.

As our last entry in the Jane Eyre book conversation, The Eyre Affair poses some fascinating possibilities about the sacredness (or not) of texts, while also getting in plenty of great bookish humor. If you’ve had a chance to check out Jasper Fforde’s initial Thursday Next adventure, join us with your thoughts, or, if you’ve not picked up The Eyre Affair yet, join us anyway for some fun final thoughts on Jane.

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Jane Eyre 6: Faith and Fairies – Conventional Spirituality versus What the Heart Hears

If you’ve read Bronte’s own preface to the second edition, you’ve noticed that, besides  laying it on a bit thick in praise of Thackeray, she also indicates that the novel has been getting some serious criticism for its religious elements (or lack thereof). Those of us here who are used to being lambasted as the spawn of the devil for reading Harry Potter might find ourselves doing the proverbial head-scratch over folks getting their dander up over the likes of Jane Eyre, which still makes the school reading lists  at religious schools and is hardly the text likely to set parents shouting at PTO meetings. In many ways, of course, this is a Christian novel, so much so that its “preachiness” sometimes turns off modern readers (as we’ve already seen in our conversations here), but its depiction of the spiritual and the supernatural is often unconventional, leading “Currer Bell” to remind readers, in the preface, that “conventionality is not morality.” As we look at the roles of the Christian faith, the spiritual, and the supernatural in Jane Eyre, we may never see what some of those nineteenth-century critics were in such a tizzy over, but we will certainly see some of Bronte’s deft touches with the non-corporeal elements of Jane’s story.

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Jane Eyre 5: Crossing the Threshold with Jane—The Novel’s Liminal Elements

At first, when I realized we would be reading Jane Eyre during the end of December and beginning of January, I thought that was a little strange. After all, this seems more the time of year to read Dickens, or maybe Charlotte Bronte’s sister Emily’s great novel Wuthering Heights ( I still hold to the old traditions of ghost stories at Christmas). Then  I realized there is probably no better time of year to read this novel which, in many ways, is a story that focuses on the meeting place between one state and another, making it a threshold or liminal (from the same root word that gives us “limbo”) story of the first order.

January, of course, is named for Janus, the Roman doorway good, whose two faces looked in opposite directions. The Romans took their thresholds seriously, giving us the tradition of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their new home (though a Roman groom had a group of his buddies heft the little woman in rather than trying to take on the task alone!). Romans recognized that the threshold was a tricky place, an in-between spot that was neither one place or the other. Threshold places are those that, like Lewis’s Wood Between the Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew, connect two places.

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Jane Eyre 4: Edward (Cullen) Rochester, I Presume? Twilight’s Jane Eyre Roots

Once upon a time, there was a pale, bookish girl who did well in school but was not very sociable. She went to a new location and made some new friends, but found her world completely consumed by a strange, secretive, older man who seemed to read her thoughts. One of his secrets put her in great danger. While they were apart, seemingly severed forever, the heroine was protected by a handsome man connected to her father. The young man had two sisters and was of a lower economic status than her beloved. Though he had a strong commitment to another calling, he sought a relationship with her, but her heart belonged to her one true love, whose voice she heard and whom she sought out and saved from despair and death. She rescued him with her love, and they were married, had a child, and lived a restored home.

Okay, so I left out a few details, but it doesn’t take much tinkering to show how clearly the Twilight Saga echoes Jane Eyre.  Though Pride and Prejudice is generally regarded as the literary scaffolding for Twilight( as Romeo and Juliet is for New Moon, Wuthering Heights is for Eclipse,  and Merchant of Venice—with a dash of Midsummer Night’s Dream—is for Breaking Dawn), it’s clear that Jane and Rochester lend as much to the story of Twilight as Elizabeth  and Darcy do—and maybe more. [Read more…]