A Discussion on Frankenstein and Workshops

Note: I’ve been having issues with my account, finally settled them today, apologies for having this up so late.

The session of class on March 20th marked our return from Spring Break. Over the break, we all read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and completed our own transcription of the Moralitas from one of Henryson’s fables.

Before we got to the topics of the class, Professor Mueller informed us about an Arthurian film that was being shown on campus. He offered extra credit for those that would be able to attend the film, and there was a brief discussion about the fact that most Arthurian films tend to be poor quality (with Monty Python and the Holy Grail being the best of them, of course) but the one being shown on campus was supposedly an exception to this rule of mediocrity.

We then moved on to the discussion of our transcriptions. The class broke off into pairs (and a few groups of 3) to compare their transcriptions and see what their partners did that was either similar or different to their own work. After these small group discussions concluded, we reformed as a class and shared what we noticed. Many people discussed not wanting to over-gloss the text and thereby insult the intelligence of the reader. This was a concern that Professor Mueller agreed with, and pointed out that one of the editions we examined was a teaching edition and therefore had extra notes to clarify some things.

I mentioned that in my edition, I had chosen to represent the character that looked like an f that represented an s as a bolded lowercase f when creating my transcription, while others chose to just change the f to an s. Both methods are valid, as pointed out by the professor, and it comes down to how the editor wants to recreate the text they are working with.

We then moved on to Frankenstein, opening the discussion by being assigned to find a passage that we felt characterizes Frankeinstein, the Monster, or Walton. From this discussion, the class found that many of our ideas about each character were very similar, which I found interesting, as I believe a few pairs of people selected the same passages for their given character.

We were then tasked with breaking into groups again in order to discuss the essays we read before class. Each group had a similar theme to their essays, allowing for each group to present the common themes they found in their discussion, which let the class learn how thoughts on the work have been formed over the years. We discussed the differences between the 1818 edition and the 1831 edition. I was surprised to learn that the 1831 edition is the one that most people are used to reading in high school while the 1818 edition was the one we had read for class (and now I want to find my copy of the 1831 edition and compare them). We then transitioned into the third workshop, which tasked us with comparing the title pages of the 1818 edition (found in our books) and the 1831 edition (provided via handout and the projector). We were assigned with creating a write-up on these differences, and in class, we discussed some of them – the presence of Mary Shelley’s name on the 1831 edition, the presence of images on the 1831 edition, the dedication on the backside of the 1818 title page being the most prevalent – before class eventually ended. Next week, we will probably discuss the title pages a bit more (well, I hope we do).

Again, sorry that this is being posted so late, but my account issues have been handled.

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5 thoughts on “A Discussion on Frankenstein and Workshops

  1. I appreciate your persistence with your account, Chris! Thanks for this careful account of the class activities. I was especially interested in your observations about the two Frankenstein editions. What we have here, I think, is a difference in authorial “authority.” What I mean is that those scholars who prefer the 1818 seem to prefer the “originality” of the edition – it represents the author’s original thoughts. Those who prefer the 1831 seem to prefer it because it represents the latest (and therefore the most authoritative) thoughts of the author. The Norton edition suggests that “revision” is not necessarily a good thing.

  2. I think for me, trying to sort out the s’s and f’s were the most challenging. There are words I know I mixed up because of how the format was back in the day. I must admit, that before taking this class, this is the first instance I really have had any experience in dealing with the mixed letters. Of course I can appreciate it for its own sense in style but still all the more interesting to deal with, minus the headaches.

  3. Hi Chris! Thanks for your scribal entry.
    Monday’s class was especially eventful for me. For so many reasons, but the highlight was of course our discussion on the differences between the two editions. This discussion prompted me to go home and dig up my old copy of the novel. Guess what? I had the 1831 edition!! This explains why every time I read a comparison between the two editions in the Norton essays I thought “wait, that’s not what ‘originally’ happens in the novel?” I always brag about my intimate knowledge of Frankenstein. It was very revealing to learn all the things I did NOT in fact know about the 1818 edition.
    I also loved the fact that different students were assigned different essays. I tried my best to read as many of the Norton essays as I could, but there were a few that I didn’t have the time to get to, so it was nice to hear from those of you who did read them. I was especially interested in what Percy Shelley had to say about the novel since people suspected that he may have written it at first. It was also nice to hear about film adaptations of Frankenstein and the changes that are made to the narrative when it gets remediated etc.
    Wonderful class discussion — but I expect nothing less of course.
    Thanks again Chris, and thanks everyone for contributing.
    See you all tomorrow!

  4. Discussing the various essays in class was great, because, like Halla had noted, I had attempted to read as many as a could before simply running out of time. Reading the first reactions of critics, I thought, was especially helpful towards a history of the book course because it showed a new part of book production that we hadn’t been able to examine before–i.e. the author dealing with the critics. Arguably, one of the most important parts of the bookmaking process, the part where the author must deal with the critics can make sure that a book survives or fails. Reading the numerous early reviewers of Frankenstein was especially interesting because most seemed so hesitant to give it any sort of praise, and even the critics were divided about its better qualities. Croker thought that the language and syntax the author had employed were probably its only saving grace, whereas Sir Walter Scott dismissed the language as awful–praising other aspects.
    It seem the history of the book is never done (as this week’s arguments on copyrights has assuredly shown us).

  5. Chris, I thought it noteworthy that the class was adamant that one should not insult the reader by glossing too heavily as well. Similarly, although we did not consider it in class, we might consider the implications of over-glossing on the readers interpretation, i.e. if we gloss too heavily, I wonder if we leave the reader enough space for interpretation. I was surprised by the number of students who left the “ze” in the text, rather than transliterating it to “ye”. Similarly, that some left the “f’s” rather than transliterating them to “s’s” was also curious. It is worth noting for scribal purposes the fascinating conversation we all had regarding the process of glossing, with all parties having a difficult time using the Middle English dictionary we were provided with, as well as, finding a dead hyperlink. The class really showed resourcefulness in making use of the translation provided, and in so many cases going the extra step to find Middle Scots dictionaries online, in addition to contextualizing particular words to uncover meaning. I am always interested in exploring process, especially how it varies from student to student. Halla, strangely, the 1818 is the only edition I have ever read – I was shocked that the 1831 edition is more widely taught. I am also intrigued by the 19th century remediation of the text, as remediation plays such a big part in the subsequent life of the novel.

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