Yesterday in the Gothic class, we started our unit on Frankenstein. I gave a little background information on the period, and then we began talking about the idea of monstrosity and how it relates to creation. As a writer, I'm always particularly interested in Mary Shelley's reference to her book as her own "hideous progeny," as well as the tale that the first draft of Frankenstein was composed in a mere weekend. One of the prison students surprised me, though, with his take on not only the novel, but the whole concept of "the monsters we create." He argued that the media creates monsters every day by vilifying criminals and by giving criminal attributes to whoever opposes societal norms.
Another student picked up on this and mentioned the oil spill in the Gulf, and how "monster" language was being used both by BP and the government, and still another mentioned terrorism and 9/11. Then a fourth student brought us back to the text and pointed out that Victor Frankenstein's "real problem" was not so much his creation of the monster, but his utter avoidance of it once he did create it. And then he looked at me with a desperate, haunted expression, and said, "Dr. Paterson, don't you think we're like Frankenstein's monster? Society creates us, decides to punish us, but then locks us away and never looks at us again. They just don't want to think of us."
As usual, I walked out of those gates yesterday having learned so much more than I taught.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010
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