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Thread: I need help understanding the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?

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    I need help understanding the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?

    I am supposed to describe an “illuminating” episode or moment in Frankenstein and explain how it functions as a “casement,” a window that opens onto the meaning of the work as a whole.
    I was going to use the creation of the creature as this "moment" since the galvanization made it "illuminating" but I'm not so sure as to what meaning Shelley wanted to create. I thought she just wrote this novel as a gothic horror story for amusement purposes only.

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Whether this is true or not, that is not the point of analyzing literature. The point is to find meaning based on what the text gives you (or historic/contextual background if you are so inclined) - regardless of what the writer herself thought.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    When the creature finds the books in the woods, he reads them and develops a love for virtue. He also learns that name and wealth are the two most important things in life--and the two things he doesn't have. He now begins to seek out his identity. I think this is a central idea of the book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Whether this is true or not, that is not the point of analyzing literature. The point is to find meaning based on what the text gives you (or historic/contextual background if you are so inclined) - regardless of what the writer herself thought.
    That's completely debatable. To disregard authorial intent is only one of many theoretical tools one can use to analyze literature, and I think authorial intent is making a come back when it comes to analyzing a work. The idea of "art for art's sake" is not the universal ideal, so it shouldn't be presented that way.
    Last edited by Mutatis-Mutandis; 02-12-2012 at 10:32 PM.

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    That's completely debatable. To disregard authorial intent is only one of many theoretical tools one can use to analyze literature, and I think authorial intent is making a come back when it comes to analyzing a work. The idea of "art for art's sake" is not the universal ideal, so it shouldn't be presented that way.
    There is a different between the "Barthes-ian" approach to literary analysis and "art for art's sake." The latter implies that that there really is no meaning to everything, the former uses what the text gives to probe for meaning. Can you not draw something from a text even if the author explicitly says "no, this is what I meant"? Is it wrong? Seeking authorial intent is far too limiting. And it is a completely different matter when we have no author intent and you get people speculating - see the OP - about what the author might have meant. You find this very often in Shakespeare, and it is frustrating because it translates author's intent to "here's what I think this person was thinking." Nosir, you take what the text gives you - if the text (and historical context) can support the theory that Frankenstein is an allegory for man's struggle with the fact that he cannot give birth (this essay exists actually exists) - then it's a fair claim. If you make a claim like "Hamlet and Horatio are homosexual lovers" with very spotty and distorted evidence from the text (as a poster on this forum sought to do) - it is not a fair claim, regardless of how many homosexual tendencies people think Shakespeare had.

    Also, saying it is debatable is completely redundant: I have never professed to be objective truth.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Can you not draw something from a text even if the author explicitly says "no, this is what I meant"? Is it wrong? Seeking authorial intent is far too limiting.
    You can do both. I was just making sure the OP understands that.

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    But if you're disregarding authorial intent, then it seems to me that's no longer analysis, but invention. Look at what's done with Shakespeare--no one man could put in all the meanings and whatnot ascribed to his plays.
    "You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views." -- Doctor Who

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    But if you're disregarding authorial intent, then it seems to me that's no longer analysis, but invention. Look at what's done with Shakespeare--no one man could put in all the meanings and whatnot ascribed to his plays.
    I quite like your distinction between analysis and invention - and I both agree and disagree with what you are saying. So think you very much - I'm now going to be kept up all night puzzling this out!

    Yes, it is invention to an extent - but that seems to be what literary analysis is. Pope's essay on criticism is as much a poem as are the poems he writes about. If the point of literary analysis is to be SparkNotes and point to the work and say 'here's what it is about. Here's what it means. Now copy and paste this you lazy kid who cannot do his own work" then sure authorial intent would be essential. But I like to think that literary analysis is more of an art, and yes the critic may add more to the work than the author could have ever considered - but this is part of the art, and part of what studying literature is. I have mentioned before that I am far too inspired by Barthes, this may be my fault - but I got into the field of literary study and education because I love the idea of a text as a living entity that we are continually building upon with our own interpretations - not to mention the connections formed through intertextuality. It just seems to provide a much richer experience than the cut-and-dry "this is right because the author says so." That is why I try to discourage people from "authorial intent."
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    I quite like your distinction between analysis and invention - and I both agree and disagree with what you are saying. So think you very much - I'm now going to be kept up all night puzzling this out!

    Yes, it is invention to an extent - but that seems to be what literary analysis is. Pope's essay on criticism is as much a poem as are the poems he writes about. If the point of literary analysis is to be SparkNotes and point to the work and say 'here's what it is about. Here's what it means. Now copy and paste this you lazy kid who cannot do his own work" then sure authorial intent would be essential. But I like to think that literary analysis is more of an art, and yes the critic may add more to the work than the author could have ever considered - but this is part of the art, and part of what studying literature is. I have mentioned before that I am far too inspired by Barthes, this may be my fault - but I got into the field of literary study and education because I love the idea of a text as a living entity that we are continually building upon with our own interpretations - not to mention the connections formed through intertextuality. It just seems to provide a much richer experience than the cut-and-dry "this is right because the author says so." That is why I try to discourage people from "authorial intent."
    I completely agree with this statement, actually. I've never been a fan of authorial intent myself. I think it's fine to bring it up, but I believe the piece of literature itself should hold the analyst's main focus.

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    The thing is what you are doing with the work. If you are going to analyse a work, ignoring the author, the age conditions, the context is wrong. An analyse will be always a movement that you do towards another.

    If you are going to to build interpretaitons, you cann't avoid but use you as reference, it is your turn to take the work as your own, so you are free to increase the power of that work. But beware, it is not everything possible, as yuo still have a real work to deal and not the image of the work you may have.

    Anyways, the OP asked what Shelley wanted to create. It is pretty much about responsability over life and children. Probally the creature and Frankstein first dialogue, when the creature accuses Frank of abandoning him is the best momment.

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