Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekly Response to Frankenstein and Heidegger

Post your 1-2 paragraph responses to one (or both) assigned texts as comments to this thread by 10 p.m. on Wednesday.


Brian DeWillie said...

I am a little curious about the use of Walton as the audience of the story. In the grand scheme of things, he doesn’t talk much in the story and he doesn’t seem that important to Victor’s story. Is he used to draw parallels between Victor and his own life experiences (that we know about) to emphasize certain truths that Shelly wants to demonstrate? Is there another meaning to having Victor tell his story to him versus a simple first-person narrative from Victor directly to the reader?

Additionally, I found the exchange between Victor and M. Krempe interesting. When he mentions that he “replied carelessly; and partly in contempt” [p.39] it struck me as odd because he had previously been so eager to learn but showed disrespect to the person who would be teaching him.

Jackson Crowder said...

Having only gleaned a limited understanding from Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology," I'll try to refrain from using it. Instead, during the course of my reading in Frankenstein, I was struck by a quote during Walton's letters and how it relates to the material we have covered so far.
When Victor says to Walton, "Have you drank also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me, -let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!" (Shelley, 28)it seemed to echo the words of Bill Joy in his article "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us." The question and following statement Victor poses smacks of Joy's dire warnings about overstepping one's technological bounds. The intoxicating draught that he speaks of could be a reference to humanity's drive to discover and how one discovery only begets another, sometimes to the point of being beyond control. In creating his monster, Victor has overstepped these bounds and it has proven ruinous which is a striking similarity to Joy's article.

Taylor Hochuli said...

(Part 1)While reading, I noticed a few connections between “Frankenstein” and another science fiction classic, “The Time Machine.” They both contain a few elements that add to the novel and its impact on the reader. The book “Frankenstein” starts out in the cold, icy setting of the North Pole as we see a man named Robert Walton trying to cross the North Pole on a boat. It seems out of place until he runs into Frankenstein chasing his monster. From there the novel begins the tale of Frankenstein’s life. The book “The Time Machine” begins in a similar fashion, beginning the novel with a preface involving the Time Traveler addressing a gathering of the British higher class. His seminar of time and the Fourth Dimension during this meeting matches with the novel’s main story, but it is shown as a preface when the Time Traveler returns to a dinner he has in a state of disarray after travelling through time. After waiting for him to recover, he reveals that he is going to narrate the tale of his time travelling which functions as the main story-line. From here, in both books, the reader acts as a person hearing the story from the mouth of the main character. In “Frankenstein,” we take the role of Robert listening to Frankenstein (or rather his record of what Frankenstein says) and in the “Time Machine” we take the view of the nameless listener who reiterates the tale of the Time Traveler.

This style used in both books of a preface and the story narration profoundly impacts the story as well as how the reader understands it. In both books, the reader gets a look into the future. The ending is revealed at the beginning of the book, just not what happens to get to that state. In “Frankenstein,” the reader knows through Robert that Frankenstein is recalling the past. The fact that he and the monster have been revealed as alive and in a frantic chase shows how Frankenstein’s narrative will end. We never fear that Frankenstein or the monster will die; they have already been confirmed as living through the ordeal. In “The Time Machine,” the Time Traveler has indeed returned and is able to share his tale as such. Therefore, we never fear that the Time Traveler will die. We are hearing the story from him, so the ending is in a way spoiled. However, these circumstances work to drive the story along. As a reader, you know the end result, but not how it came to be. We see Frankenstein on the verge of death chasing a monster across the cold north and the Time Traveler in a state of disarray with his clothes in shreds and bloodied feet. It hooks the reader into hearing their tale just to figure out how they transformed into such a state. For “Frankenstein” readers, one strives to see what toil brought about the monster and reduced the privileged, happy intellectual Frankenstein into such a dreary state on the edge of the Earth. The “Time Machine” readers try to find out how the future physically affected the Time Traveler and impacted his weird behavior in the preface. The two prefaces also address the main audience to the tale. The tale of “Frankenstein” is directed at a determined sailor in the hopes of dissuading him from being over ambitious and repeating the doom Frankenstein had to endure. The upper class of Britain is the audience of the Time Traveler since they are the main subject of the future, reverted to primitive creatures that have a dark secret. The preface sets up who is the main recipient of the novel and makes the reader consider the actual situations pertaining to either those with too much ambition or those who feel to secure in their being. Both prefaces also do the simple job of setting up the narration of the main story.

Taylor Hochuli said...

(Part 2) In a less formal reaction, I found the book to be very surprising because I am used to the classic mad scientist with his helper Igor making the gigantic green monster we inevitably see every Halloween. The book is much more along the lines of horror and, in my opinion, much more profound than the contemporary view of Frankenstein and his monster. The man behind the monster is much more fleshed out and you can see the reasoning behind creating the monster, or rather the misguided passions that led to its creation. The narration style works in both books (“Frankenstein” and “The Time Traveler”) to make the story more personal since the reader hears it directly from the person who experienced the story. It also helps make the character more real since the speakers interrupt with their own view on the events. Frankenstein comments on how wrong his mistake was while the Time Traveler comments on how wrong his theories would turn out to be. This adds to the foreshadowing and makes you understand the main character’s motivations.

Karen Knutson said...

Heidegger was a mess. I was understanding how he was trying to have a philosophical discussion on the word technology, and how the word had an essence, but did he mean Plato's idea of forms essence, in which it is unfathomable because it is beyond our basic human ideas, or Tristate's idea of form? Also, he talks about unlocking the power of nature when modern technology is used, but does't a campfire also unlock the power of nature in a similar way that Heidegger is asking? I its supposed to be unlocked, transformed distributed, and changed, can't I just say that the power of wood is unlocked into heat, transformed into charcoal, distributed to people, and changed into eyeliner (ancient Egypt used it).
Frankenstein is a much easier read. What kind of malady dose Victor have that places him on bed rest for such a long time? It is also interesting to not e the difference in between the monster's view of basic technology versus Victor's view of the technology that he has created. Whenever the monster sees a basic technology for the first time, (books, housing, language) he describes how amazing it is and how advanced the villager are from his perspective, which seems to be an archaic homo sapien sense. On the other hand, Victor hates the technology he has created and wants to destroy the /monster that he created

Janine Talis said...

I will not pretend to have gleaned any information from the Heidegger essay. Whether I am not educated enough to understand it, or he too free with his own intelligence I could not say. Were it not for the fact that the copyright of the book is 1977, I would have thought that the translator pasted the entirety of the essay into Google Translate, and then had it published without proof reading. Whatever the case, it is hard to question something you cannot even begin to understand.

Frankenstein, on the other hand, I can question. The one question that comes to me each time I read this book is how can Frankenstein be completely disgusted at the fruits of labors so immediately upon completing his goal? "I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." (Shelley, 54). In Joy's essay, he described that the scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project felt pride at the success of their creation, followed by the horror over what they had done. But Frankenstein not only gave himself no time to feel pride, but also allowed his monster any time to prove himself to be something that deserved more than the horror it received. Unlike the Bomb, the monster was not born as a weapon. He was a blank slate, probably capable of becoming any level of good or bad, had his creator given him the same attention after his birth, and during his conception.

Roger Sepich said...

The part of this week’s reading that stood out to me the most was the chapter where Victor begins to become obsessed with his studies and solving the science of life. I thought many of the things he was saying during this chapter seemed very applicable to what we discussed in our last class after reading Bill Joy’s article. Victor says that “a human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind, and never allow passion…to disturb his tranquility” (Shelley 51). While it is kind of ironic that he seems to be slowly losing his own sanity at this point in the book, I thought this quote related to what we talked about in class last week because he is suggesting that no matter how passionate you are about some task, you should always attack it with a calm mind. Victor gets even more specific by saying that he doesn’t believe the pursuit of knowledge should be an exception to that rule, which raised the question in my head if Victor would think that modern computer scientists should be mindful of the possible dangers Bill Joy was worried about with artificial intelligence taking over the world? Is it the responsibility of scientists to just progress technology as far as possible, or should they consider the potentially dangerous implications of new technologies on society? These connections between past and modern times and how they viewed knowledge and technology interest me the most in this part and other sections of this book.

Jackson Crowder said...

Jackson Crowder
Narrative and Technology

In Frankenstein, Walton, whose letters both open and close the book, must be given proper credit as an integral character and not dismissed as I have heard some do over the course of my schooling.
While Victor and his monster dominate much of the story, it is Walton who gives us, the reader, the context in which we should view the unfolding of the novel’s events. In his opening letters to his sister in England, Walton goes discusses his adventurous spirit at length. Noting that he could have easily chosen to live a life of comfort with his sizable inheritance from a cousin, he chooses instead to live a life of work. The adventure that Walton seeks in his life provides the original context by which we should view Victor. The fact that the reader is first introduced to Victor through Walton’s point of view could function as the first clue to the ruinous nature of Victor’s scientific “adventures.”
Examining Walton’s adventurous nature, it is also worth noting how his voyages continue to take him to increasingly dangerous places. As he grows more and more bold and his lust for adventure and meaning in his life increases, he grows seemingly more reckless (although, as the letters are told from his perspective, it does not come off this way in the text). The culmination of this is his ship being stuck in the ice and then floating amongst icebergs near the Arctic Circle. It is therefore appropriate that this is where he meets Victor for the first time. While he does not realize it at the time, he is seeing first-hand how the adventurous impulse, when pushed too far, can be extremely hazardous.
Walton’s discovery of the nearly dead Victor was, perhaps, an example to show what Walton could have become. Walton provides the ideal canvas upon which Shelley painted the picture of Victor’s madness. He was not yet driven to madness by his obsession but, a reader can see by his actions, he is not far off and, without his fateful encounter with Victor, would likely have encountered a similar predicament.
If a reader is to view the story through Walton’s perspective, they will likely gain a clearer picture of what the book is about and Shelley’s intention when reading it. Thus, the Walton’s lens can be seen as not necessarily the right way to read the book but an accurate way.