Tuesday, February 28, 2017

For Wednesday/Friday: Kumare = Handout

If you missed class on Monday, we watched the first half of Kumare, a documentary that loosely relates to some of the themes from our recent works. We'll finish it tomorrow (Wednesday) and then write about it on Friday. Remember that Paper #1 is due on Monday (see assignment below), and there is no class on Monday. 

Here is a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXUzG6YKuvo

ALSO, if you missed class, here is the handout I passed out:


THE GOAL: Remember, the goal of writing papers is to create a written conversation between you and the authors of the texts. It shouldn’t just be you saying “this happens, and then this happens, and this is important because of this...” Imagine that you’re actually having a discussion with the books in question, and in your paper, you speak, they speak, and you respond to their ideas.

AUDIENCE: Don’t write for me (the professor) and avoid saying “as we discussed in class,” or “like that one book about the X-Men said,” etc. Write for a general audience that is interested in the topic but wasn’t in our class and might not have read all the books. This way, you assume less and explain more. The more you assume, the less you represent the full conversation in your paper.

QUOTE: When exploring your ideas, be sure to quote passages from the books that would help other people see where your ideas come from, OR passages that you can respond to in order to examine problematic ideas. When quoting passages in your paper, make sure to follow the format below. Introduce the quotation (tell what author or work it comes from) and then cite it at the end (the page number, or if no page numbers are provided, simply cite the author). Don’t use stand-alone quotations.

EX: As Victor Frankenstein explains in Chapter Five of Volume Three, “I shall be with you on your wedding night.’ I should almost regard the threatened fate as unavoidable. But death was no evil to me, if the loss of Elizabeth were balanced with it; and I therefore, with a contented and even cheerful countenance, agreed with my father, that if my cousin would consent, the ceremony should take place in ten days, and thus put, as I imagined, the seal to my fate “(195).

After quoting a passage, be sure to respond to it: help us understand what this passage is saying and why it’s important to your discussion. Don’t assume the reader can read it the way you can, or understand why you’ve quoted it.

WORKS CITED CITATION: Make sure to cite all your works in a Works Cited page at the end of your paper like so:

  • Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Penguin Books, 1995. [the basic citation is the author + the title of the work + publication information]
  • Claremont, Chris. The Uncanny X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. New York: Marvel, 1981.
  • Kumare. dir. Vikram Gandhi. Kino Lorber, 2011

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

For Friday: Finish X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills + Paper #1 assignment

Be sure to finish the X-Men comic for Friday's class; we'll have an in-class writing assignment about a specific scene. Also, I'm pasting the Paper #1 assignment below. Start thinking about it, even though it's not due for a bit. Keep all your daily responses, since they can all be used as pre-writing for your paper (it's all part of the same conversation). 

General Humanities II
Paper #1 Assignment

Option #1: Metaphors and Monsters
“I have known such fear and hatred from birth...but time does not make it any easier to take” (Nightcrawler, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills).

For this option, I want you to discuss how the ‘monsters’ in each work are metaphors for the “others” in our society. In Frankenstein, the Creature is shunned simply because he is grotesque, though he has more humanity than Victor himself. Likewise, the X-Men devote their lives to saving others, yet are classified as freaks and considered pests to humanity. What makes the “Other” so uncanny? What fears do they seem to awaken in our collective unconscious? How do both authors explore this in their works, and how do they attempt to exorcise these demons? Where do we see similar ‘monsters’ in our own society? Are the fears and the persecution the same?

Option #2: The Savior of Mankind
“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many  happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein)

For this option, I want you to explore the role of the ‘Great Man’ who feels called upon to save humanity even at the expense of his life—or those of others. We’ve seen three men who fall under this umbrella in class: Christopher McCandless, Victor Frankenstein, and now, Reverend William Stryker. Each one has noble intentions, yet each one (to a greater or lesser extent) is willing to sacrifice others as he pursues a single-minded vision of purity and salvation. What makes these men tick? How do they find their inspiration? Why do they persist when other men and women might fail? And how do all of them go over the edge in their pursuit for the ideal?


  • Show me you’ve read the books and listened in class. Don’t talk vaguely—respond specifically to the ‘big ideas’ of the books and discussions.
  • QUOTE from the books and use these passages to support your reading and explore the conversation of the paper topic. Don’t just summarize or generalize the topic. Show how complicated it can become and how the authors are struggling with it themselves.
  • Introduce and cite quotations according to MLA format (see post on the blog about Citation).
  • Should be at least 4-5 pages double spaced
  • DUE MONDAY, MARCH 6th BY 5pm

Monday, February 20, 2017

For Wednesday: Claremont, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

NOTE: Take some time to get accustomed to reading a comic book, since it’s a little tricky at first. Read both words and pictures carefully, and don’t assume the pictures merely illustrate the words (they often show you more than the words). We’ll talk about how comic books tell stories in class on Wednesday, along with the questions below. Read about half of the book for class (at least to the flashback of Stryker’s wife’s death), or feel free to read the entire story.

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: How is Stryker under some of the delusions and sense of grandeur as Victor Frankenstein? Though he doesn’t want to create life, what gives him the right to destroyt it? What makes him more than a simple comic book villain like Red Skull, Dr. Doom, etc.?

Q2: What is the advantage of telling a story about racism, bigotry, and misunderstanding in a comic book rather than a traditional novel? What can you do (or show) in a comic that helps underline the essential message? Discuss a passage that seems to do this effectively.

Q3: How is this comic also about the power of the media itself? How does Styker use the power of television to his advantage? Why isn’t Professor X able to use the same power/ability? You might also consider how Stryker would have used social media if this comic had been written today (it’s from 1982).

Q4: In many ways, Kitty Pride (aka Ariel) is a lot like the Creature, a young person who is given an education in the cruelty and hypocrisy of life. Where do we see her tested in the same way, and what seems to prevent her from becoming exactly what her enemies expect her to be—a blood-thirsty mutant?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

For Friday: Frankenstein, Volume III

For Friday's class, read as much as you can of Volume III of Frankenstein. We'll have an in-class writing over a significant passage in the book.

Some ideas to consider are...

* Why does Victor destroy the "mate"? What is significant about the Creature's response to this?

* What do you make of this passage: "The remains of the half-finished creature, whom I had destroyed, lay scattered on the floor, and I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being" (175). 

* How does the Creature's relationship change toward Frankenstein in these chapters? Why might this be? 

* Does Victor kill Clerval? While obviously "the Creature" does it, how does he react to the crime? Why do all the villagers assume he's guilty?

* How has Elizabeth changed in the ensuing year? Though she says relatively little in the book, what does Shelley reveal about her thoughts and fears?

* Why does Victor leave Elizabeth unprotected on their wedding night? Why does he assume the Creature means to kill him?

* Why does he "[embrace] her with ardor" (199) in death, though he never seems to show passion to her while alive? 

* Does Victor ever contradict himself about his Creation toward the last chapters? Does he think he's created a monster...or a human being? What does he want posterity to see? 

* How does Walton end the book? Has he learned from Victor's example, or will this only make him embrace his pursuit of "the wild" even further? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

For Wednesday: Shelley, Frankenstein, Chs. 6-9 and Chs. 1-2 (Vol.3)

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In Chapter VII, the Creature reads more books borrowed from the De Lacey clan, as well as a strange manuscript he’s been carrying around since his ‘birth.’ How do these books further shape his education, and why might they definitively push him over the edge?

Q2: Twice the Creature says “I, like the archfiend, bore a hell within me” (138) and “it stirred the fiend within me,” (145) which echoes Victor’s earlier statement “I bore a hell within me that nothing could extinguish” (89). Are there other tell-tale signs in the Creature’s language that he shares Victor’s thoughts, imagery, and vocabulary? Is this proof that the Creature is Victor, or is it more a case of “like father, like son”?

Q3: When Victor bids farewell to Elizabeth (after planning to marry her), the text merely says that she “acquiesced; but she was filled with disquiet at the idea of my suffering, away from her, the inroads of misery and grief...she bade me a tearful, silent farewell.” However, the original 1818 version of the novel reads like this: “Elizabeth approved of the reasons of my departure, and only regretted that she had not the same opportunities of enlarging her experience, and cultivating her understanding...We all, said she, depend upon you; and if you are miserable, what must be our feelings?” What does the original text seem to communicate about Elizabeth’s experience that the 1831 version wipes away? What might this say about Mary Shelley’s feelings as she wrote the novel?

Q4: Why does Victor ultimately agree to creature a mate for his creation, even though he finds the work detestable and the implications frightening? Does he finally sympathize with his ‘son,’ or feel a sense of duty towards his creation? Or are there darker, more sinister motives behind his acceptance?

Mary Shelley Biopic on the Horizon

For those interested, keep on the lookout for a Mary Shelley biopic coming to theaters in the near future. Elle Fanning plays Mary, and it covers much of her tumultuous early life, including the writing of Frankenstein. Read the brief article below for more details: https://www.filmoria.co.uk/first-look-at-elle-fannings-mary-shelley/

Friday, February 10, 2017

For Monday: Shelley, Frankenstein, Chs. VII to (Vol 2) Ch.V

NOTE: I originally said to read all of Volume 2, but I’m backtracking a bit since we only covered Chapter V in class on Friday. So just read a few more chapters for Monday, or if you’re behind, hopefully this will help you catch up.

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Upon learning that the Creature has killed William and framed Justine, Victor reflects, “A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine” (83). However, he never confesses or even tries to intercede on Justine’s behalf: why? Do you think he really would sacrifice himself to save Justine, or is he truly incapable of saving those he loves?

Q2: Remember that the entire story is being told to Walton, who is writing it all down for posterity, so his sister can read it. With that in mind, so you feel that Victor is telling the absolute truth? Is he a reliable narrator? Are there any scenes or moments that you feel he could be hiding actual events, or making himself seem better—or more innocent—than he actually was?

Q3: Though we expect the Creature to be a savage, mindless monster, he appears quite reasonable, and even sympathetic when they meet in Chapter II. Why does Shelley turn the tables on us here, and how she does make us consider the Creature as more than a mere monster? You might also consider whether or not Victor responds the same way as the reader does.

Q4: How does the Creature receive his education after being banished from Victor’s presence? Who becomes his ‘foster’ parents and what instruction do they offer him? How might these passages address the ‘nature vs. nurture’ issue that was a big issue in the 19th century? In essence, are people born human, or do they have to be taught to be human? 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

For Friday: Shelley, Frankenstein, Chs.5-8 and Vol.2, Chapter 1

Read the next few chapters (up to Chapter 1 in the Second Volume) and we'll have an in-class writing to discuss some of the big ideas in this section. Some ideas you might consider are:

* Why does Frankenstein create a 'monster' when he could have created anything he wanted? Why does his final creation repulse him? Didn't he see what he was creating before hand?

* How does the Creature respond to his master? Does he try to destroy him? Speak to him? How much does he understand what he is--and who Victor is?

* At one point he calls the Creature "my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me." Why does the Creature become his implacable foe, killing all those he loves--and especially the women in his life?

* How guilty is Victor in the deaths that follow? He wavers between blaming the Creature and then blaming himself as the "murderer." Is he? In a sense, has he killed Henry and Justine?

* What happens to Elizabeth throughout these chapters? How is she transformed by the events of the novel? What does Victor to do assist her or protect her? Why might Shelley include this in the novel? 

Monday, February 6, 2017

For Wednesday: Shelley, Frankenstein, Letters I-IV and Chapters I-IV (pp.15-57)

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Most first-time readers of Frankenstein are surprised to find that the novel begins with a frame narrative: that of Walton, the arctic explorer, who is writing home to his sister, Mrs. Saville. Why do you think Shelley opened her fictional horror novel with a series of “real” letters from one person to another? Does this remind you of techniques we use today in films and TV shows?

Q2: Soon after Walton meet Victor, he writes to his sister, “I have endeavored to discover what quality is it which he possesses, that elevates him so immeasurably above any other person I ever knew” (30). Why is Walton so taken with him, especially since most people would dismiss Victor as a madman? On a related note, does Victor resemble McCandless is any of his background or personal beliefs? Could we see him as another man lost “in the wild” on an aesthetic voyage?

Q3: Frankenstein is full of description of the natural world: we read about terrifying glaciers in the North Pole, as well as thunderstorms and mountains in Victor’s native Switzerland. Why do you think Nature is such an important part of the book, less a backdrop than an actual character in the story? When does Nature seem to help us ‘read’ or understand the story itself?

Q4: Recalling his early education, Victor remarks, “And thus for a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling, like an unadept, a thousand contradictory theories, and floundering desperately in a very slough of multifarious knowledge...” Why is Victor attracted to old, arcane alchemists and philosophers who have long-since been debunked? What is his attraction to the writings of Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Magnus, men who are almost more magicians than true scientists? 

Friday, February 3, 2017

For Monday: Exam #1 (Candide & Into the Wild)

REMINDER: We have an exam in-class on Monday covering our first two books. it will have two parts, a short answer section and a longer essay section. Bring BOTH books to class so you can use them for your essay--you will not get full points without quotation. 

Be sure to have a copy of Shelley's Frankenstein by  Monday, since we'll start discussing it for Wednesday's class. Question to follow...

Enjoy the weekend!