“Steamboats, Viaducts, And Railways”

MOTIONS and Means, on land and sea at war
With old poetic feeling, not for this,
Shall ye, by Poets even, be judged amiss!
Nor shall your presence, howsoe’er it mar
The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar
To the Mind’s gaining that prophetic sense
Of future change, that point of vision, whence
May be discovered what in soul ye are.
In spite of all that beauty may disown
In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace
Her lawful offspring in Man’s art; and Time,
Pleased with your triumphs o’er his brother Space,
Accepts from your bold hands the proffered crown
Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime.

-William Wordsworth (1833)

 

William Wordsworth is one of the most taught English Romantic poets in academia. His lesser known 1833 poem, “Steamboats, Viaducts, And Railways”, details Wordsworth’s concern with society’s rapid embrace of industrialization, while also showing Wordsworth’s Romantic praise of the improvements done through this technology. The title of the poem provides examples of this industrialization, both on land and at sea, which are “at war / With old poetic feeling” (Lines 1-2), suggesting that industry and modernization is destructively opposite of the traditional Romantic notion of simplicity and stillness.

The second statement in the stanza, represented in lines 3-8 detail an ode to these technological advancements, stating that these steamboats, viaducts, and railways further the “Mind’s gaining that prophetic sense / Of future change” (Lines 6-7). Nature, symbolically feminine, embraces the “harsh features” of technology (traditionally masculine). Time (also masculine—possibly suggestive of the figure of “Father Time”)  is pleased with technology’s triumph over Space, correlating to the railroads, viaducts, and steamboats as modes of transportation that connects people across long distances.

So although Romantics are known for the antagonistic approach towards technology, Wordsworth includes poems that actually praise the advancements while still keeping with his overall concerns.

Reference

Wordsworth, William. “Steamboats, Viaducts, And Railways”. 1833. Retrieved from https://stevenedwardjones.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/f18texts2.pdf. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.

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Digital Humanities Hiccups

As the Fall 2018 semester comes to a close, my three final projects are creeping closer and closer to their due date. One of these projects will be a multimodal essay on the adaptations of Frankenstein’s creature.

Since I found some success with Twine’s applications in my presentation on Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Shirley, I was hoping to continue this work for the adaptation project. However, my overly exaggerated idea to create a game where players can follow different adaptations and physically see the character transformations cannot be executed as I wish in the little time left.

As someone who is still relatively new to digital humanities, I have an inconsistent experience with tools like Twine. The program seems to be user friendly; however, being “user friendly” does not constitute the program to be a quick process. I have spent more hours on Twine tutorials than I have reading my sources for my traditional twenty-page  final essay.

So I have decided to scrap the idea of integrating a Twine game into the multimodal essay and will instead focus on properly applying other tools, including Voyant and Knightlab’s StoryMap and Timeline, onto our Wix platform (since I have had some hiccups with these applications being visual in WordPress).

There will still be interactive features to the final essay, including a video that illustrates the shifting iconography associated with Frankenstein’s creature. We (by “we” I am referring to myself and two classmates that are working on this group presentation) also hope to have a physical component of the essay to accommodate those who may be tactile learners.

I am excited to see where this project will go, but I hope to get a better grasp on how these DH tools will enhance our argument.

The countdown is on … only seven days left until the presentation.

Trying Twine

As someone who self-identifies as “not tech savvy whatsoever”, I really stepped out of my comfort zone and tried to create a story on Twine, an open-source program that allows users to create non-linear stories and games with little coding experience.

I, having no coding experience, through back a shot of liquid courage and began playing around with the platform. To my surprise, the initial introduction to Twine was very simple, straightforward, and to the point. I had no trouble creating a story, editing the written content, and adding links to other “passages” within Twine.

However, my overly-ambitious self decided to try going further into the unknown realm of coding and create interactive features for my presentation on Charlotte Brontë’s novel Shirley.

One weekend and hours of Youtube tutorials later, I have created the roughest of rough drafts on an interactive “pop quiz” for the plot and main characters of the novel. I have successfully created a story, integrated a textbox, coded alternative responses based on the player’s previous choices, and integrated static images. Even though I am so proud of what I was able to accomplish, I know there is always room for improvement.

For example, I successfully integrated a textbox, however I still have yet to code a response for incorrect answers. Currently any answer inputted into the text box will continue the story forward, even if the answer was incorrect (which then defeats the purpose of this “pop quiz” style presentation).

Overall, Twine seems to be a user-friendly platform, and there are plenty of tutorials in addition to the official documentation listing the various codes, variables, and macros available for use. A brand new user will still require some time familiarizing themselves with Twine coding basics.

Life and Death in The Last Man

Mary Shelley’s The Last Man deals with death. A lot of death. Someone who has never read a single work from Shelley can make that assumption off of the title alone. Returning to England following her husband’s untimely drowning, Mary Shelley wrote in her personal journal, “The last man! Yes, I may well describe that solitary being’s feelings, feeling myself as the last relic of a beloved race, my companions extinct before me” (vii), which would turn into the novel. The plot of the story deals with a plague that wipes out the entirety of humanity, aside from Lionel Verney, the last man (and character representation of Shelley herself).

This idea of death haunts Verney throughout the novel, as he bears witness to the demise of his companions Adrian (representative of Shelley’s late husband, Percy), Lord Raymond (representative of the late Lord Byron, a close friend of the Shelleys and renowned poet), and a host of secondary characters. Upon finishing the novel, I wanted to gauge how much of the novel is devoted to this morbid theme, so I ran The Last Man through Voyant, a digital tool for textual analysis. The results were surprising to say the least.

Word Cloud on The Last Man

download (1)

The above word cloud visualizes recurring words in the novel, and surprisingly the three most frequently used are “life” with 329 recurrences, “heart” with 290 recurrences, and “love” with 272 recurrences. “Death”, with 218 recurrences, comes sixth in line of frequency.

For a novel steeped in death, I was intrigued by how these results came out. Maybe since The Last Man is a roman-à-clef for Shelley’s actual life, the sentiments for her departed loved ones manifests in her amorous language, since “heart” and “love” are among the top recurrences. Could it be that Shelley intended for this novel to not be about death, but rather be an appreciation of life?

Reference

Shelley, Mary. The Last Man. Oxford World Classics, 2008. Print.

Mary Shelley’s The Last Man Revisited

When Mary Shelley first wrote her 1826 novel, The Last Man, she set her characters in a dystopian future where, through plague and war, all life in Europe has been vanquished, leaving the protagonist, Lionel Verney, as the sole survivor. This post-apocalyptic novel is set in the year 2073, and ends in 2100. When I first read this novel, I was taken aback because

I am living closer to 2073 than I am to the year when Shelley composed The Last Man.

2073 is a mere fifty-five years away. Shelley wrote this novel almost two hundred years ago. This leads me to ask how much of Shelley’s future will be accurate, then, since I very well might live to see 2073. Being 2018 now, I can already see some concerning similarities…

In Chapter V of the second volume, Shelley’s Lionel Verney describes extreme changes in the weather, with powerful winds and storm surges “seems as if the giant waves of ocean, and vast arms of the sea, were about to wrench up the deep-rooted island [England] from its centre; and cast it, a ruin and wreck, upon the fields of the Atlantic” (Romantic Circles).

As a lifelong resident of Florida, I have experienced my share of hurricanes and omens of a flooded state. This excerpt eerily reminds me of these storms, which while considered normal weather patterns for Florida, are unheard of so far north in England.

Also, the plague that wiped out everyone in The Last Man might have been based off of the Bubonic Plague, but humanity could see a resurgence with the amount of parents in the United States who are now choosing to not vaccinate their children.

Was Mary Shelley an oracle who predicted the end of the human race?

We’ll find out in 55 years.

British War Poetry

During the years where Western Europe was engulfed in the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and mass industrialization, war became a common theme among British poets, including Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley, although they make up only a fraction of the total contributions.

Here is a timeline for historical reference of these events:

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=11dMuubd8-HBHxvUGEQoD2__JEGZj4pGYnXralDVKBDg&font=Default&lang=en&initial_zoom=2&height=650

Betty Bennett notes in her introduction on the collection, “[t]his collection does not include the works of the major Romantic poets, since they are readily accessible; rather, it is intended to offer, in its overview of the influence and effects of war on the age, new perspectives on these poets and their responses, both poetic and political” (Bennett).

Three hundred and fifty poems published between 1793-1815 comprise this corpus. I have compiled the poems spanning from three distinct years (1793, 1803, and 1815) to analyze their similarities and differences.

Poetry from 1793, 1803, and 1815

1793, 1803 and 1815 Poetry

1793 Poems
1793 Map.png

1803 Poems

1803 Map.png

1815 Poems 
1815 Map.png

Song to the Men of England

The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.

Sow seed,–but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth,–let no impostor heap;
Weave robes,–let not the idle wear;
Forge arms,–in your defence to bear.

-P.B. Shelley

In response to the oppression felt by lower class English society, P.B. Shelley’s “A Song to the Men of England” illustrates this dichotomy between the peasantry and their lords. The first of the two stanzas included above articulates the passivity of the men of England having their goods and labor taken from them by the “tyrant”.

The second stanza parallels the first in content, but Shelley’s use of tone switches from a passive to a more active voice. Here Shelley gives agency to the oppressed men by having them “sow seed”, but not letting the “tyrant reap”, signifying his alliance with the common man as opposed to the wealthy upper class. Shelley goes so far as to call the lords “impostor” for taking the money of those who live within his domain. The physical labor, the “robes ye weave”, is taken by “the idle”, suggesting that the upper class is idle—or unmoving—in their own laboring for clothing.

By having the second stanza contradict the first in tone, but remain similar in content, Shelley is arguing not for an uprising, but rather a reinvention of labor. Rather than having all of the capital and labor be taken from the common man by the upper class, Shelley insists the men of England to “Forge arms, –in your defence to bear”. They should prepare themselves, but for defense, not an attack of the bourgeois class. This allows the country to remain the same in their day-to-day operations, but allows for the common man to reap what they have sowed.

Reference

Shelley, P.B. (1833). Song to the Men of England. Retrieved from https://stevenedwardjones.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/f18texts2.pdf

Adapting Frankenstein

Richard Brinsley Peake’s stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein incorporated music, comedy, and drama—a stark contrast from the Gothic expression of the original 1818 text. There are many differences from Shelley’s original story and Peake’s Presumption, but the most notable (at least in my opinion) is in the representation of Frankenstein’s creature.

Shelley’s version of the creature presents a complicated relationship between him and his creator, Victor. The creature learns to talk and read so eloquently in the original text that his vocabulary seems to exceed that of Victor. However, in Peake’s Presumption, the creature is not only referred to solely as “the Demon”, but his character has no lines and is omitted from the Dramatis Personae altogether.

So what does that do to his representation? How is the audience’s understanding of the creature and his motives affected by this decision to have the creature not speak? Romantic Circles writes, “In the original playbill the Creature is not even given a descriptive name but is instead represented merely by a set of dashes, so thoroughly has he been divested in Peake’s script of any personal identity or human dignity” (2001).

The creature’s “human dignity” is a motivating factor to his actions in Shelley’s original work. His feelings of loneliness from constantly scaring anyone who sees him paired with his observations of romantic relationships drive the creature to ask Frankenstein for a mate. His witnessing the destruction of his female counterpart by Frankenstein motivates his revenge.

But “the Demon” in Presumption receives none of these sympathies. He is not given the ability to defend his motivations by having his voice— and ultimately his humanity—striped from his character.

This leads me to wonder how adaptations influence our understanding of these classical characters, especially those representing notions of “good” or “evil”.

(Note: this question may develop into a research proposal)

References

Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption;_or,_the_Fate_of_Frankenstein

N.A. (2001). Cast and Characters. Romantic Circles. Retrieved from http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/peake/apparatus/cast-characters.html

Death for Monsters

Death is a recurring theme in many Gothic and Victorian texts. This is seen most evidently in Shelley’s Frankenstein. Victor, his mother, Elizabeth, Henry, Justine, William, all have met their end by the end of this novel. But the creature? “He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance” (p. 166). While many readers, scholars, and critics assume he dies, it is never revealed for certain.

What is the purpose of death in this novel? It varies for each character. For Victor, death is his goal. Not dying, but mastering death through reanimation. In his attempt to master death by creating life, he bores the creature. This creature thus brings death to Victor – first William, then Justine, Henry, Elizabeth, all of those who Victor cares for die at the hands Victor gave life to.

Victor affinity to master death is exemplified after the death of his mother. His God complex is only furthered after his creation prays to him for a mate. However, he chooses to destroy his female creation, which drives the creature to destroy Victor’s mate, Elizabeth.

By the end of the novel, Victor has wasted away to death, where his creature sees him one last time before he disappears from the ship. Since his death is uncertain, or at least not verified by Shelley, does that mean that the creature is the evil of this novel? I think not.

In my reading, Victor is the evil. The creature is just a personified reflection of Victor’s wickedness, his selfishness, his ugliness. Neither Victor nor the creature receive the love of their female counterpart. Both are responsible for the multiple murders throughout the novel. However, Victor gets the release of death, while his creature’s fate is uncertain.

Whose fate is worse? Death or damnation? Victor’s fate is certain, but what of his creature? Does he still roam the Alps, the countryside of Geneva, or the shores of Ireland? I’d like to think he made it to South America, living in the jungle, away from judgmental eyes and the torments of Frankenstein.

 

Resource

Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein. New York, NY: Dover.

Language in Frankenstein

“I expected this reception,” said the daemon. “All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!” (p. 68)

As someone who has never before read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, you could imagine the surprise found at the sheer eloquence the creature displays in his language. Above is the first line he says in the novel. For someone described as a brute, daemon, and monster, Frankenstein’s creation articulates better than Victor himself.

Now why would that be? The monster, the abomination created from pieces of broken men, wakes from his “birth”, unable to distinguish light and dark, hot and cold, yet within two years is reading Paradise Lost and recreating Milton’s epic style as he tells his story to his creator.

Wrought with despair, Victor, even with his collegiate education, stumbles to convey his feelings.  His silence juxtaposed to the creature’s speech only highlights their difference more. So this begs the question, is the creature supposed to be the antithesis to Victor’s character?

Many scholars believe so. Victor is human. The creature is, well, a creature. Victor is the creator, the creature his creation. But is Victor good? Is the creature bad?  Certainly if we were to follow in this dichotomy, then yes the creature should be this evil force. And, yes, he does evil things, but by having the creature be articulate, arguably more articulate than his own creator, this binary of good and bad is upended.

How so? Well, evil has a tendency to be polarizing. Think of the Ring Wraths from Lord of the Rings. That kind of evil is nonredeemable. But Victor’s creature humanizes himself in this speech, literally and figuratively. He literally learns about rain, shelter, fire, food, and most importantly, speech while living in his hovel adjacent to the French family. With his newly learned speech, the creature figuratively humanizes himself to the reader. He speaks on loneliness, one of the most desolate of human emotions.

Does evil feel loneliness? I will update you next week.

References

Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein. New York, NY: Dover.