So recently I have begun, in class, the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was a success among my 9th grade students last year and with it came some wonderful conversations. This is a novel I have somewhat avoided for a few reasons. The first reason is that I’m not typically drawn to the “dark and spooky.” I don’t watch scary movies and am not attracted to the “monster” types. The second is that Hollywood has created such a cartoon out of the story that I felt it may be a “cheesy” at best attempt on my part as well, to portray the tale or perhaps downright and legitimately “creepy” at worst. And the third reason is that (now hanging my head in shame) I had never read the novel!
So, like I said, here I begin again. I open my book, this time, a little easier as the spine has been loosened. I read again post-it-notes of previous thoughts. Some ring a bell and make me very grateful I had taken the time to note something meaningful. Others are vague, but were obviously insightful at the time. I shuffle through previous notes, I review a little of Mary Shelly’s biography and begin a list of common themes to be looking for. Doesn’t every English Lit teacher look for “themes”?? — Everything feels very methodical at first. Wanting to be passionate about most of the books I walk students through, for a moment I question whether this time I will do the novel justice. But before long, my scribbles turn into sentences. The sentences turn into outlines and the outlines begin to excite my heart and soul. 🙂 Okay. Well, they bring me joy. And joy is needed. As a teacher I have found that in order to bring joy (or at least meaning) to a lesson, I have to find joy on my own with the book or material. I will be the first to admit that in the high-school classroom not every lesson feels like “magic.” Not every student will love every book. But deep inside I hope they will. Deep inside I hope that if they don’t they will be convinced that I do (when I do). And deep inside I hope that they like something, learn something, and will take something away with them that they will remember for a lifetime (or perhaps when they least expect it).
With this, I begin again. I plan on chatting here about Mary Shelley, giving some background on her biography, family, dearest love, Percy Shelly; influences and friends, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge; as well as deep losses and redemptions in her life. I’d like to look closely at Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and draw from it further meaning and insight into Frankenstein. I also plan on talking a little about the Industrial Revolution and the Romantic Movement, both of which had their influence on Mary and her tale. We will look at the novel, Frankenstein in light of its being both a gothic novel and a frame work novel. The later is of special interest to me! I’d like to look at Percy Shelly’s poem, “Ozymandias.” I see this too as a “framework” story and wonder if it had its influence on how she approached the “frame” concept. I hope you enjoy this discussion! And finally, we will be exploring… THEMES! I can’t promise how long I will camp on any one of these. Some are of special importance to me and others may be simply “duly noted.” These themes are as follows, but may not be limited to:
- The Act of Creation
- Dangerous Knowledge
- Respect for Life
- Compassion for the oppressed or uneducated
- Laws of Nature
- Redemptive Quality of Nature
I’m excited to dig in! Please come back and follow along with me on Frankenstein Part II! Have a cup of coffee at Midnight and cozy up by the fire! Get up early and join me…or sneak a little read over lunch. Whatever works best for you I’d love to have you along! And let me know if you enjoyed something or have something to share! I’d love to hear!
— Kathy Jean