What a Week: Research Splendor, Texts, Interview

Traces of Connectivity

Researching Darwinism and the Alice texts this week, I came across a slang terminology that applicably embodies half of my theory<>…so very exciting. Also reading Alice beyond Wonderland ed. Cristopher Hollingsworth and The Selfish Gene by the great Richard Dawkins, but today I need to do a lil research assistance for a fellow scholar. The topic is political {gnashing-of-teeth} so I approach with caution – timidly toting Max Weber’s Essays in Sociology. The Capstone is progressing, and I am enjoying the process. Again, I apologize for not disclosing these amazing concepts I’m working, but I cannot take my info public until the end of session (August).

Interview with Earl Pereira from The Steadies

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My editorial internship with Punchland.com proved positive this week with an exciting opportunity to chat with Earl Pereira from The Steadies. Click HERE to read the full interview, “Silver Lining Sensation:  Love Revolution by The Steadies,” and listen to their contagiously-happy tracks. What brings me extra <smiles> is that The Steadies incorporates positivism with music. As followers may note, my #PursuitofOptimism research has been lacking since the project was rejected as Capstone theory. Picturing positive vibes pinging off Pereira recharged the authority of optimism. I’ll make sure to visit the group today with an up-lifiting update, inspiring poem link, and band website. Listening to this album invokes reggae-beach-happiness. My fav track:  “Phoenix.” Check out The Steadies latest video below to energize your weekend.

“Take Me Home” by The Steadies from Love Revolution:

 

Picture and video c/o @TheSteadies

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Really…?

My MacBook, Archimedes, ate all my categories. And now it is self-selecting for this post. {gnashing of teeth} Trying to fix, hope it works.

ARGH…now…duplicity.

 

Essay: Darwinian Literary Analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818 Text)

Darwinian Literary Analysis of Mary Shelley’s

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818 Text)

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 551 Spring 2015}

The ability to write a terrifying ghost story was realized by Mary Shelley through her imaginative dreams during a visit with Lord Byron in which the three accepted a challenge to create a chilling tale. After aptly listening to her husband Percy and Lord Byron discuss the fundamentals of the meaning of life and whence it came, paired with Erasmus Darwin’s theories on reanimation, Shelley envisioned a monster of terrible origins: a man created by man. I intend to expose the rudimentary workings of the author’s own mind and experience as fodder for her ghost story, insomuch that her biological tendencies afforded her the ability to create such a foe. Dependent on personal experience, humankind is able to mimic nature – but only so far as the individual mind is able to imagine due to the factors of evolution.

The human brain is limited by one’s own imagination, or lack thereof. Shelley uses her character, Captain Walton, as Victor’s audience as means to encourage her own readers to allow for unusual happenings; Victor said, “I believe that the strange incidents connected with it will afford a view of nature, which may enlarge your faculties and understanding. You will hear of powers and occurrences, such as you have been accustomed to believe impossible: but I do not doubt that my tale conveys in its series internal evidence of the truth of the events of which it is composed” (Shelley 17). Due to her parentage, both being writers, Shelley knew that she needed to bridge a gap between reality and reanimation. Captain Walton, an explorer on expedition to the unknown Artic, represents the inquisitive mind of humankind; that he immediately believes and loves Frankenstein is motivation for the reader to accept the story presented. It is through Walton in which the audience hears of the workings of Frankenstein.

As human beings of the nineteenth century could not create something from nothing but only rearrange what was already there, Shelley shows her main character Victor Frankenstein taking pieces of variant dead corpses and repurposing them into the Creature. The author uses her inherent skill of literature to envision an amplified species of humankind – a man who was larger, more durable, and easily acceptable to change – specific characteristics in which a higher evolution is suggested. Favoring factors of natural selection include a focus on the species’ ability to adapt to its environment. Charles Darwin notes the importance of adaptive abilities as they determine a selected species, he said, “Over all these causes of Change I am convinced that the accumulative action of Selection, whether applied methodically and more quickly, or unconsciously and more slowly, but more efficiently, is by far the predominant Power” (105). By granting the Creature thicker skin to better survive the conditions of nature, Shelley presents a suspension of disbelief for the reader who is to presume the Creature is more than natural man.

Literary Darwinism allows for the human brain to expound on the natural experience through evolutionary means. Victor notes on the wavelike reactions to change: “One sudden and desolating change had taken place; but a thousand little circumstances might have by degrees worked other alterations, which, although they were done more tranquilly, might not be the less decisive” (Shelley 54). His description mirrors the action of natural selection – small variations eventually forming new species through adaptations, or responses, to one’s environment. D.T. Max summarizes the abilities of literature as dependent on the evolving nature of humankind: “They say that it’s impossible to fully appreciate and understand a literary text unless you keep in mind that humans behave in certain universal ways and do so because those behaviors are hard-wired into us”. Literary Darwinism explains to the audience why Victor Frankenstein, a character of the eighteenth century, could not accept the monstrosity that he created as minds from that time period could not fathom an unnatural person: “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. 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 39). Victor is mortified with his own actions because he belongs to a time period in which humankind is not mentally prepared to accept the workings of science in the form of reanimation. The audience of the nineteenth century is vastly different than a modern audience because evolution has affected the modern brain’s ability to comprehend artificial manipulation.

The modern audience who reads Shelley’s piece will wonder why Victor deserted his creation, not why he created a monster. The reason behind this could be that the idea of reanimated flesh is not a new concept. The modern audience was subjected to the abilities of science via cloning of the 1990s, and the roots for cell division are found as early as 1892 by Hans Driesch. Dealing with embryos, Driesch discovered that each blastomere of the sea urchin created a new reproduced cell and that the cell, undiminished, was able to reproduce during cell division (McKinnell and Di Berardino 876). The point addressed is not focused on sheep, but more so to the public’s acceptance of cell division being a factual truth and common knowledge. With scientific acceptance the audience is able to understand cloning as a realistic possibility instead of a fantasy.

The advancement of the human brain relies on universal growth per species, and we look to culture to define the limitations. However, culture itself is a result of genetic growth: “At the core of Literary Darwinism is the idea that we inherit many of the predispositions we deem to be cultural through our genes” (Max). The meat of the matter is that Shelley was only able to create Frankenstein because her mind was predisposed to allow for scientific influence by means of her husband and father. Furthermore, due to her inherited genes from her parents, Shelley was able to construct a story of scientific nature using popular vocabulary of the time. Through her genetic disposition, Shelley knew to avoid areas of science that brought discomfort to the public, namely the grizzly work of dissecting human bodies, and she tactfully kept the physical construction of the Creature to a minimal while Victor “…pursued nature to her hiding places” (Shelley 36). The tone of the piece follows the designs of naturalism, and Shelley skillfully allows Victor to be the center of his own existence. The piece is more about how the instance has affected Victor’s own life than that of the life of his creation.

The modern reader empathizes with the loneliness of the Creature, who is so bereft of direction that he is never given a name. Despite his miserable conditions, the Creature is seen as more than human as he teaches himself how to read, write, and speak by way of mimicking the cottagers. Language and communication between the cottagers is fascinating to the Creature, he said, “I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it” (Shelley 88). He is self-taught and learns at an accelerated rate in which should produce pride in Victor for creating such an eloquent being. However, Victor feels only repulsion towards the Creature, insisting that he is a daemon from the start. While the physical looks of the Creature are considered deformed, he notes other valuable abilities that are better than regular humans: “I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they, and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs” (Shelley 96). Like a variation of species, the Creature’s genetic makeup is suggested to be of advanced development.

The humanity of the Creature is expressed through his own self-hatred upon reading the contents of Victor’s journal in which he recognizes his ugliness and issues a demand upon his creator. Comparing his life to the ordeals of Satan in Paradise Lost, the Creature said, “God in pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid from its very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested” (Shelley 105). He wants Victor to create a female companion so the Creature does not have to be alone any longer. Later, Victor relents to his monster’s request to end further injustices to his family; but he rips the second creation apart halfway through, thinking humanity better off without two fiends haunting the world. Victor’s fear is that the creatures will reproduce and form a variant of species, a more evolved version of humanity.

Living up to the expectations of his creator, the Creature murders the people in Victor’s life in which bring him happiness – William, Clerval, and Elizabeth. Life is void of joy for Victor who notes “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. The sun might shine, or the clouds might lour; but nothing could appear to me as it had done the day before” (Shelley 167). Death again is present for Victor’s father, and the falsely accused Justine. Victor assumes blame for the deceased as he created the monster that set the actions into effect. Victor renews his vigor with revenge, he said, “I was possessed by a maddening rage when I thought of him, and desired and ardently prayed that I might have him within my grasp to wreak a great and signal revenge on his cursed head” (Shelley 168). The harder Victor tries to uphold humanity, the farther he loses his own – he wanders the deserts and barbarous countries in search of the Creature.

Victor was a man of science, but during his final breakdown he turns to spirits of the dead and wandering ministers of vengeance to direct and aide his pursuit of his creation: “Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me” (Shelley 172). He believes these spirits bless him with sleep and strength; at his utmost lonesome he turns to them for support, but it is more likely that it is the Creature who leaves sustenance not a good spirit: “Sometimes, when nature, overcome by hunger, sunk under the exhaustion, a respast was prepared for me in the desert, that restored and inspirited me. The fare was indeed coarse, such as the peasants of the country ate; but I may not doubt that it was set there by the spirits that I had invoked to aid me” (Shelley 173). Sleep comes in the form of sheer exhaustion, and his strength is fueled by obsession for revenge – Victor has been reduced from sophisticated aristocracy to uncivilized instinctual survival dependent on the elements of nature.

Captain Walton alone witnesses Victor’s death, but the Creature appears shortly after, lamenting his grief to Walton. The Creature justifies his murderous actions by describing his necessity against good: “Evil thenceforth became my good. Urged thus far, I had no choice but to adapt my nature to an element which I had willingly chosen. The completion of my demoniacal design became an insatiable passion” (Shelley 188). The Creature adapts so that he may survive, the environment that issued the change was humanity – by neglecting to recognize the innocent life created from coarse parts. He leaves Walton with intentions of suicide, as he sees no other consolation than death.

In conclusion, Shelley’s ability to conceive of the story of Frankenstein is found in her predisposed genetics as well as the acceptance of entertainment through literature is found in her audience’s mind. Through the lens of Literary Darwinism, the story of the Creature is a tale of searching for acceptance inside humanity – that the Creature fails is a sign for further improvement through evolution. Frankenstein implies a warning to address the abilities of science with caution and suggests the limitations of humankind as a mere component when compared to the complexities of nature.

Works Cited

Darwin, Charles. “The Origin of Species (1859).” Darwin a Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Philip

Appleman. New York: W W Norton & Company, 2001. pp. 95-174.

Max, D. T. “The Literary Darwinists.” New York Times, 6 Nov 2005. Web.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/magazine/06darwin.html?pagew

anted=all&_r=0. Accessed 28 Apr 2015.

McKinnell, Robert G. and Marie A. Di Berardino. “The Biology of Cloning: History and

Rationale.” BioScience, 49.11 (1999): 875-85. Web. Accessed May 5, 2015.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818 Text). Ed. Marilyn Butler. New

York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Picture c/o:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e6/Frontispiece_to_Frankenstein_1831.jpg

*** Check out my alternate ending to Frankenstein under “Natural Survival” to see the Creature survive***

Natural Survival: Letter 10

Letter 10

To Mrs. E_______, America

Salekard, Dec. 24th 20___.

How then is this possible? Please understand that Father Charles does not hail from our natural descent but was yet formed and constructed by the hands of a weak willed individual from Switzerland. A mad doctor too entrenched in conformity to acknowledge the miraculous workings created by his own hand! Not once but nearly twice, did this crazed doctor attempt to impart life unto his hodge-podge mass of flesh: the first was Father Charles, a success; the second was wrenched in twain before the spark of life could be implemented. Father Charles calls her memory Dear Annie, a sweet and pure soul who never was to grace the world.

Their reliance on mutual aide encouraged the cast-offs to band together, and they survive here – albeit poorly, without the succor of the modern world – by sheer determination alone. Their dwellings are in the bowels of the Ural Mountains, dependent solely on the provisions of Nature and loathe to quit her icy stare. It is with confidences alone in which Father Charles grants me passage as he is far too gentle to demand I remain, knowing all to well that I have the home and hearth of family awaiting my return. However, I’ve assured him that once I’ve spoken personally with you, and further prepared my belongings, that I will return as never before have I experienced the natural connection to not only the desolate cliffs but also to the select few who populate the bareness.

 Merry Christmas, dear sister! I shall see you in a few weeks,

Walt

Natural Survival: Letter 9

Letter 9

To Mrs. E_______, America

Salekard, Dec. 22th 20___.

An odd kinship formed, over the years, between the two wanderers, and Father Charles was able to soften the nature of Father Newton upon the discovery of another miserable wretch trekking alone the mighty cliffs of their Arctic surroundings. And another. And another. And so forth they created a small community of vegabonds, though dependent on each other for survival.

I’m sure, dear sister, that you’ve done the math by this point, and are surely wondering if the isolation itself has seeped into your dear brother’s veins as Father Charles would be noted at over 200 years old. However, I assure you, despite the laws of nature, this indeed is true. Father Newton, naturally, has not made the journey as he passed from existence as long ago as 1850, having lived a full and meaningful life. The fullness was a gift of Nature sent in the wailings of dear Father Charles.

 Walt

Natural Survival: Letter 8

Letter 8

To Mrs. E_______, America

Salekard, Dec. 20th 20___.

Father Newton found him, dear deprived Father Charles, screaming out for death and cursing the rain. He prepared a grand funeral pyre, the flames stretched nigh the heavens, and gentle Father Charles nestled, seated atop the brambles, awaiting the fingered flames to succumb him to nothingness. Yet, Mother Nature could not endure her body void of such a notable creature and saw fit to cast down tears of sympathy, heavy tears in a rush to squelch the flames and free the man of the face of death. Father Charles ironically chuckles now, as he relates the tale, yet I am seized with fascination at the workings of Nature – that She alone would recognize the inherent goodness inside the man to whom society turned a blind eye. Father Newton willed Father Charles down from his aborted death throne and ushered him into a wretched cave in which the former resided, nursing him back to health with tender humane kindness. The initial reason for Father Newton’s intervention held selfish means as the older man’s hunting expedition of the day was greatly disturbed due to the lamenting cries of Father Charles – he intended to wrestle with the culprit until, nearing the hulking figure, he deduced an injustice so trite he could not leave the man to face his demons alone.

Your loving brother,

Walt

Natural Survival: Letter 7

Letter 7

To Mrs. E_______, America

Salekard, Dec. 17th 20___.

The founder, who they call Father Newton, was a man confused as to the meaning of life, one whom could not abide society or tolerate the inclusion of variant life inside his own – a hermit who preferred the desolation of Nature to the embrace of humanity. Interesting then, that it was he who welcomed a number of outcasts into his environment. What could make Newton, a man who tracked into the Artic on foot during the Enlightenment to escape the inherent evilness of humanity, what could possibly allow this man to open his arms – and his cave – to a band of ragamuffin rascals who society cast off? I tell you true that it was one man alone who rekindled compassion inside his empty heart! I know this will be difficult to digest, but I’ve met the man myself – and his passion alone could motivate the ice caps to return to the Baltic tides.

I’ll speak of his intellect initially, as his physicalities are loathe to admire, but in our day and age what are cosmetic concerns in a world able to perform intricate surgeries of aesthetic desire? I tell you, I’ve never in my forty years, beheld a man of such eloquence and genteel nature than demonstrated through Father Charles. Alas! the horrors the poor creature has endured at the hands of fading aristocracy. The more to grant glory to his story as I’m sure it will find you shaken to the soul in hopes of his continued happiness and inclusion. But I get ahead of myself, we must begin with the origins for you to totally grasp the implications of natural survival paired with a dashed spirit.

Natural Survival: Letter 6

Letter 6

To Mrs. E_______, America

Salekard, Dec. 15th 20___.

Aghast! What a story I have for you, sister. I request only that you shield the tale from the youth as their simple minds are apt to assumptions. I came across the most interesting of communities. Yes, I said communities, here in the arctic…where no life may continue without the boon of technology. I discovered a body of near thirty people living crudely in the Ural Mountains. Even more intriguing is that the settlement, though much improved, has existed here since 1818. The founding of this isolated community holds the most abnormal tale, yet I’ve been assured of its truth and must admit I believe them fully. I will pen down the tale this evening. For the now, we are off to hunt.

All my love,

Walt

Natural Survival: Letter 5

Letter 5

To Mrs. E_______, America

Salekhard, Dec. 11th 20__.

You will rejoice to hear that I am alive and well despite the physical hardships noted in the Arctic. With the successes of technology, my crew and I view the desolation of Russia as removed from ourselves due to the provisions allotted. We make excellent time and ride the reigns of progress.

I hope my previous writings have found you well; I can picture you now, leisurely enjoying your children and husband as the holiday approaches. Please, dear sister, ensure that these young lives feel the warmth of family in these of colder months.

Always Your Loving Brother,

Walt