Saturday, January 14, 2012

Prompts for Thursday the 19th

Prompt #1)  This prompt is inspired, mainly, by Amy's post to the open thread last week.  So, here's what she had to say, for context:

I read Frankenstein about three years ago, and the English class was to direct attention toward the theme of the creation of a disaster. However, reading Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel a second time, I approached it by looking closely at the individuals characters. Overall, I find all of the characters to be passive. In terms of Victor Frankstein’s monster, I couldn’t classify his actions as passive, but because he hasn’t been nurtured and integrated into society, I’m not so sure he comprehends what it means to be passive. The females are the most passive of the novel, listening and agreeing with what men tell them. Victor Frankstein’s mother, she takes a more passive role as the husband swoops in to provide shelter and security to Elizabeth (Shelley 26). Elizabeth herself can’t even formulate her own opinions, listening to either what the police say or Victor about Justine Moritz role in William Frankenstein’s death. Justine Moritz is the most passive woman in the novel so far, welcoming death despite her not murdering William (Shelley 91). However, when I consider that the author of Frankenstein is a woman, this brings me to a question that relates to my insight: Is Mary Shelley telling the story from a man’s point of view? The story of Victor’s despair is told through Victor telling it to Robert Walton.
 Your job is to answer one of the two following questions, in the form of an essay, both of which are inspired by and should be contextualized by the above quote.  DO NOT ANSWER BOTH - JUST ONE.

a)  Focusing on specific passages and/or characters (don't try to do everything), address what it means that Shelley is "telling the story from a man's point of view," also keeping in mind that Shelley was raised in an environment, unusual for its time, where feminist thought was accepted and even welcomed.  Is there a strategy, or an implicit argument, to the dominance of male voices in the narrative?

b)  Are the women of the novel, in fact, passive?  What is the significance (political, intellectual, theoretical - you pick the kind of significance) of their passivity, or their lack thereof?  As always, support your argument with details from the text!

Prompt #2)  Analyze a passage, or limited set of passages, in the second half of Frankenstein using Heidegger, or analyze a passage, or limited set of passages, in Heidegger using Frankenstein.   You should make detailed use of the texts, show a clear direction in your inquiry, and at least be in the clear process of forming an argument.  In the spirit of Heidegger, remember that "Questioning builds a way," and that your thinking should "lead through language in a manner that is extraordinary."  We are looking for at least detailed and articulate questioning that relates the two texts in a coherent way; a true, single argument is a bonus but not a requirement.

Prompt #3)  I ask this with great trepidation, because it often leads to underdeveloped responses.  Here's the short version:  "Is the monster human?"  The reason this simple question often leads to weak or underdeveloped writing is that people tend to give very little attention to the great complexity and difficulty of defining what it means to be human in a way that stands scrutiny.

So, here's the slightly longer version:  Answer whether or not the monster is human, where your definition  of" human" is clearly and articulately defined, and rooted in an outside, probably academic text (scientific, psychological, historical, philosophical, etc.).  You should be defining humanity not in a trivial or casual way, in other words, but using a well-developed theory of human nature.

Note:  Heidegger's text, if you want to grapple with it, would count as your outside text, if you think you can articulate a defensible understanding of human nature from it.

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