The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
English 284: Paper Two
Dr. Pace, December 15, 2015
Revised and updated November, 01 2016
My world is moving pretty quickly since I turned in the first version of this paper on November 16, 2015. Since December 4, I have arranged for a fifty-five minute professional quality video The Hobbits in Our Lives, which Dr. Janice Bogstad and I produced in 2004, to be converted to online format and streamed on YouTube1. I hosted the Mini-CS Lewis Conference in the Gillette Conference center, Banbury Place, the converted two million square foot tire plant here in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I organized a book launch for my own novel Philip of Trier a Bildungsroman set in a post-holocaust 33rd century (available in both Amazon Kindle format and as a hard copy in Amazon print on demand). At the same venue as the C.S. Lewis event book launch we held a small symposium on the future of book arts in the first quarter of 21st century. Somehow this confluence of events, along with our classroom presentation on December 11 on various aspects of gender theory, have all come together to cause me to rethink and rework the first version of this paper
Thus material, which is for the present external to the textual world as it relates directly to my ongoing paper “Monsters: Media, Modality, Methodology,” is now integrating itself with that same paper and in turn with some of the other papers and publications I have been working on over the last several years. This is particularly the case with my “Metaphysical Evil in J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft” (in progress, McFarland) essay project.
I still would contend that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: a Modern-Day Prometheus, (the 1818 uncensored first edition which I have before me in Amazon Kindle and Amazon Kindle text-to-speech format) may be still read as cautionary tale about the limits of knowledge and scientific investigation, and perhaps even in a critique of the Enlightenment. Thus I am going to suggest a deeper and perhaps more subtle critical approach to Mary Shelley’s story. I believe that it is fact and early literary account of the development of a feminist Meta-ethical position. Further than that I will argue that Frankenstein: a Modern-Day Prometheus problematizes the Augustinian sense of evil which contends that children are born evil into the world, thus there is no hope of redemption outside of the church. The genesis of this discussion took place in our Mini-C.S. Lewis Conference in the discussion led by Father Michael Greene, Christchurch Cathedral at Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which included retired pastor Peter Van Dyck, myself, and Dr. Janice Bogstad, among others. The apparently Anglican Episcopalian view on evil according to father Greene is the children are not born evil into the world, but rather, they come into evil in an evil world. Thus the monster is not evil by nature but rather made into a monstrosity by the monstrousness of the world. This is a little bit of a stretch, however this position brings to mind the position of the French feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, who contended in her monumental work The Second Sex that woman is made not born. Might we not say the same about socially constructed monstrosity?
Drawing then from my 1818 edition, Frankenstein, the Doctor is asked:
Did I request thee maker from my Clay? To mold me man? Did I solicit from the darkness to promote me? (Paradise Lost)
Applying the critical methodology of new historicism, what can we say about the context in which it (Frankenstein) was written? It was three years after the battle of Waterloo was culminated and 26 years since the wars of the French Revolution. Three years previously the Congress of Vienna occurred and post-French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Europe were carved up like a Christmas turkey. In 1816 Europe had nearly frozen to death because of a volcanic explosion that happened 8000 miles away in Indonesia, and England was in the seventh year of a nine-year Regency. From 1811 and 1820. The best metaphor I can think of to describe this historical. Geomorphologic, period is to say it was seismic in nature. It was as if the tectonic plate of the old was being ground under by something new, terrifying and apparently monstrous, and yet the monster did not bring itself to being. Extending this tectonic metaphor for a bit farther I wish to report that upon the first of our 20+ trips to England as we toured North Yorkshire I first recognized the enclosure storm fences which had so much changed the lifestyle and landscape of United Kingdom, grinding under the old communicable lifestyles and forcing populations with no wish to move to the cities to do so. They would be forced to work in what William Blake was later referred to as the satanic mills.
Within a year of the first transatlantic steamboat voyage to the United States, the Savannah was to make the voyage from Savannah, Georgia to Cork, Ireland during the months of May and June 1819. Barely a year later was the Savannah to disappear in a fiery explosion. The first steam railroad locomotive, Tom Thumb, had been running in England since 1804, and by the time Frankenstein appeared a significant portion of the United Kingdom had some form of railway service. Of course the same sort of technical grinding was taking place in the biological sciences which really simply appears in the text of Frankenstein itself as we examine the early education of Victor Frankenstein. Both in the novel and in the two iterations of the film: 1910 and 1994, which I’m examining through Jacques Derrida’s neologism phallogocentrism http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-body/ reference these scientific and technological developments.
Turning to Capt. Walton’s letter one, (position 73 in my Amazon Kindle, 1818, first edition of Frankenstein), we find the captain expressing the purpose of his great Northern voyage to his sister, and the ethical rationale to justify it.
But, supposing all these conjectures are to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generations, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries which at present so many months are requisite; or by asserting the secret of the magnet, which, it would be at all possible can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.
At least to the modern reader, and I suspect to the thoughtful late Regency English reader, Mary Shelley’s characterization of Capt. Walton’s expression of purpose, corresponds in its own way to a geographic expression of Victor Frankenstein’s desire to defeat death, are not characterized in a positive, but rather an ironic way, making Capt. Walton an embodiment of over 22 centuries of Eurocentric imperialism with all of its accompanying costs. It is of interest to us also that Capt. Walton is apparently single, writing perhaps to the only one in the world, his sister, who apparently offers him some sort of nurturing and support as he charges towards the end of the world. I will go farther than this and say I believe that the novel is structured to test the value system which apparently drives Victor Frankenstein, Capt. Walton, and the monster to the end of the world where they all meet in a frozen wasteland which evokes Dante’s 9th circle of his frozen Inferno. http://historylists.org/art/9-circles-of-hell-dantes-inferno.html
I am still drawing on a conference I had with our professor, Joel Pace, on November 5 when I decided to continue focusing the major portion of this paper on something no larger than a few frames from Frankenstein: a Liberal interpretation from Mrs. Mary Shelley’s famous story For the Edison Production film (1904, copyright 1910.) in which I ask these two questions: “Who was the monster? “Then: “Where is the monster?” This is no small challenge. However I now feel that we have gone past the previously mentioned questions. Given our view of the Anglican Episcopalian revised view of Augustinian evil, the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not the monster. So perhaps we will go on asking, then, where the monster is? More than anything else I think this is the meta-ethical question Mary Shelley wishes us to think about. My first reflection is to say that if monstrosity is made, not born, then monstrosity does not exist in in the formation of human personhood, but perhaps more likely in a socially constructed and perhaps industrially engineered creation project. It was at this point that I realized as a result of a classroom presentation but there was a resounding historical resonance between the 1910 Edison Frankenstein film, and the 1994 TriStar motion pictures rendition starring Robert De Niro as the creature and Kenneth Branagh as Victor Frankenstein. The portion of this film we are really interested in takes place from approximately 44 minutes and 13 seconds of screen time, until 50 minutes and 15 seconds when the scene closes. I first noticed the confluence of these two scenes at another student classroom presentation because in both cases the transformation of the parts of humanity as living creation takes part in electrochemical cooker which represents, I think, a colonized and appropriated human womb. Chapter 4 (location 566 Amazon Kindle edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 1818 uncensored edition).
It was a fury night of November that I’ve held the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony. I collect the instruments of life around me that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifelessly flesh that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle burned out, what, by the glimmer of the half extinguished light, I saw the dull yet yellow eyes of the creature open; breathe hard, a convulsive motion agitate its limbs. How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate from this wretch whom with such pains and care I had endeavored to form.
For purposes of comparison I did in fact do a close and then an even closer re-reading of the entirety of Shelley’s Frankenstein and was again devastated by its brilliance and the power of Mary Shelley’s language and, though close reading is not my critical methodology for this project since I do not accept the text as being a culturally autonomous entity, close reading is still a very useful first step in gaining access to a multi-modal text like Frankenstein which has existed in both a literary and cinematic universes and finally in our popular consciousness for nearly the last two centuries.
The captions on page 7, below, are all that remains from Edison’s Kinetogram (1904) 1910 authorized silent film version of Frankenstein which have been reduced to a series of frames with only the text of the subtitles.
However before we even look at the first silent film caption we have to deal with a problem of transition. We must deal with the transition between the England of Jane Austen, which was the venue of the 1818 first edition of Frankenstein, and the America of Teddy Roosevelt who walked softly and carried a big stick, and ask ourselves what took place in that eighty-six-year transition that even allowed for a 12 min. 45 sec. silent rendition of the Frankenstein film.
Though I’m applying a new historical criticism approach to this film, with certain cultural studies emphases, nevertheless I think it would be useful to borrow some of Scott McCloud’s formulations from his graphic novel (and critical work) Understanding Comics to fill the gap of the length of a long lifetime. In order to do this I am going to have to make use of something we discussed in our 11/12/15 class in making a few jumps from stanchion to pillar to post. And will hope that in the process I do end up landing in the gutter, as Scoot McCloud describes it. This semester we have done a certain amount of dancing with the French philosopher Derrida from whom I’m going to continue using, borrowing, perhaps even truck-bumping, against some others’ formulations about absence and presence as they apply to the events in the 86-year gutter between the first print edition of Frankenstein, and in 1904 film, with the first screenings in 1910.
So what’s in the gutter? Well I will start the litany a little bit earlier and say: the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans, the Battle of Waterloo, the Congress of Vienna, the Monroe Doctrine, Hegel, Marx, and Feuerbach , Kierkegaard, railroads, steam engines, telegraphs, iron ships, and revolutions. Also the high-speed printing press, expanding America, the Irish famine. I have this way of thinking about the 86-year space. And if I were a rapper I would add this all up with Mr. Edison’s inventions, not to mention the internet which allows us access to a one-hundred-and-eleven year-old film as if it were just produced for You Tube.
FILM STILLS CAPTIONS
Frankenstein leaves for college.
Two years later Frankenstein had discovered the mystery of life
Just before the experiment
“Sweetheart tonight my ambition will be accomplished. I will discover the secret of life and death and in a few hours I shall create into life – the most perfect human being in the world has yet known. When this marvelous work is accomplished I shall then return to claim you for my bride. Your devoted Frankenstein.”
*Instead of a perfect human being, Frankenstein’s use of an evil mind creates a monster.
(One must overcome the temptation to attempt comic glibness when dealing with these 86 words which incidentally are equal to the number of years between Frankenstein the novel, and Frankenstein the film. One way to do that is think about what is contained in the historical gutter between these two cultural products. But what is even more terrifying is to just think about what is foreshadowed by the film itself.)
Frankenstein appalled at the sight of his evil creation.
The return home.
Haunting his creator and jealous of his sweetheart for the first time the monster sees himself.
On the bridal night Frankenstein’s better nature asserting itself.
The creation of an evil mind is overcome by love and disappears.
“Who was the monster? “Then: “Where is the monster?”
In my 1818 kindle facsimile first edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, after the monster grows out of that evil inside Victor Frankenstein, I can think of no textually efficient way of dealing with the most significant theological finding of this project. I simply no longer believe that the monster is born evil out of the evil in Victor Frankenstein’s mind. Rather I think he is born as a clean slate, repulsive yes but crying out for human care, nurture, and warmth. Of course because of the monster’s gigantic size, strength, and his temper, he becomes a radicalized other for all humans with whom he comes into contact. Would this always be that way? Can we speak of progress being possible? Is it not a goal to move from radicalized otherness to acceptance and inclusion? At our best are we not all part of a higher educational endeavor, which seeks to celebrate diversity, and the radicalized otherness? The monster in his inconsolable pain and suffering, and deprived of human warmth, comes into being out of his apparent monstrousness. He kills what Victor Frankenstein loves most. Then he goes on later to cause Frankenstein to pursue him, the monster, to the total end of the world, a frozen icebound desolation, like one of the circles of hell. Once having fulfilled this task, he testifies to Walton that he has no further reason for existence. The monster will self-destruct in a giant fire at the end of the world
In the 1904 film edition of the film Frankenstein there is a much happier ending and the monster, somehow consumed by love, disappears into a mirror and we have him no longer. At first Victor sees the monster in the mirror, but then he sees himself. But my point here is not to do a comparison between the book and the film. That will have to wait for later. Rather, I wish to deal only with the apparent disappearance of the monster in both versions of our text. I think of it this way: the monster exists in the existential sense whether he is present or absent in his physical manifestation.
Since my last draft of this paper I no longer ethically accept the formulation of resignation to monstrosity. I also think it’s an affordable luxury to accept that it is a monster inside our minds. Its invisibility is not an argument for its nonexistence. Take for example Adam Smith whose formulation of the invisible self-regulating hand of the free market, in which each of us should seek ruthlessly to promote our own self-interest and somehow in the process that will promote the common interest. In doing this he promotes a kind of capitalist aesthetic which is of some kind of ultimate and independent incontestable value. Perhaps it is in the invisible form of the disappeared monster that we see the fully realized grounding of the capitalist aesthetic.
Shelley demonstrates, as Smith would argue, capitalism which shreds all existing social, economic, family, and, finally, political systems, and the same orgy of distraction exemplified by the monster in the narcissistic evil of Victor Frankenstein’s mind. We may have too quickly and with too much facility been inspired by the Renaissance, and the Hubris of the Enlightenment. We have forgotten to easily a progression that then moves from alienation, to monstrosity, to annihilation where we find we are producing, and have been produced by, a system allegedly regulated by an invisible hand, which is really only a mechanism created by men to regulate other men.
Conclusion and Rephrasing of My Thesis.
Thus I am going to suggest a deeper and perhaps more subtle critical approach to Mary Shelley’s story since I believe that it is fact and early literary account of the development of a feminist Meta ethical position. Further than that I will argue that Frankenstein: a Modern-Day Prometheus problematizes the Augustinian sense of evil. Of course it is not up to me to ascertain the efficacy of my thesis. However I think it can be argued that I have changed the trajectory of my original paper as new sources of information became available. Information indicates to me a great deal more work might be done on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley generating a feminist meta-ethic by problematizing the phallogocentrism of Victor Frankenstein, and Capt. Mallon. Perhaps to the point of suggesting how desperately the monster wants the care and nurturing which these two so easily cast aside.
Meta textual Appendix:
This will have to be brief because this is late. Deadlines loom and my feet and knees hurt from sitting at a computer for the last couple of days but I got a great deal out of the class. What are my peak experiences? Of many was my December 11 presentation with Superman. I really thought of my old days of just-in-time radio and television production. I spent a lot of time iterating and reiterating the value I have gained by thinking about comics and graphic novels and the nomenclature which goes with them. This is already started to affect my work as a public intellectual. The last time I talked to my father, now 45 years ago, he warned me never to say stuff like this which is why I’m saying it now. If I give back even some of what I got from the course I will be a happy man. I discovered among other things that my work on the film Blade Runner has been studied in a compendium on Myth Monsters laughter. As I can figure down this path much of the work which I have done in the past seems to have been more recently rescued from obscurity.
One of Dr. Pace’s favorite research methodologies and break dances is “the crab walk.” I soon found the need to do that crab walk myself. It has to do with a 2001 BBC film entitled Conspiracy starring Kenneth Branagh who plays the Nazi Heydrich who presided over the 1942 Wannsee conference and brunch were the final solution was formulated to deal with what was referred to as a Jewish storage problem. When I watched Branagh’s performance in the 1994 Tri-Star production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I sensed a strong perhaps ethical and intentional connection on his part to connect the two films. The idea being Victor’s drive towards trans-human perfection does not lead to the construction of monsters but rather the construction of Auschwitz. Now there is something I’m going to have to write about.
Dec, 1, 2015
A segue i/ˈsɛɡweɪ/ (Italian pronunciation: [ˈseːɡwe]) is a smooth transition from one topic or section to the next. The term is derived from Italian segue, “follows”.
Oct, 30, 2016
As I complete additional work as agreed upon this for paper I find it taking another perhaps more optimistic trajectory, as I apply additional critical methodologies as we are studying as part of our readings lectures class work and group projects in English 440 the reasons this paper took so long to finish start to clarify. I start to understand why this paper took so much additional time simply put the original December 15, 2015 conclusion sounded just too cosmically dark. That was one of the reasons I took so much additional time. Visualize my conclusion and it evoked to pulsating terrifying and inescapable images of hopelessness. The first these pulsating neon images was the German Arbeit macht frei feely translated as Freedom through work. This was the welcome which graced the gates of Auschwitz. The second abbandonare ogni speranza o voi che entrate pieno preventivo freely translated as hells welcome mat abandon all hope you who enter here. The second image also had its properties of flashing neon lights, which actually rover wrote senses so I could smell the stench of the electrocuted flies in my nostrils, taste them on my lips.
This new and extended iteration of my project is a paper which does not have its terminal destination in Auschwitz. Perhaps in its new and improved conclusion we can suggest an alternative present that could exist now late second decade twenty first century modernity in which at at least the west does not in the process of grappling with and attempting to defeat death become its embodiment. It does not become death’s embodiment in a series of arrangements of the mechanism of production that really only produce and consume the single product only death searching for more death. That is to say, I wish to suggest at least the probability an alternative reality to our present grounded in an emergent ethical system. I am referring to t he present in which we exist which is soon to be our foreshadowed near future. This which when scaled on a planetary level leads to extinction even, or death of the planet.
In order to do this necessary for me to introduce a theory of literature I have developed over the five and a half decades of my academic work, to indicate how, as W.H Auden might have said certain “Ironic signs of light” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/september-1-1939 have asserted themselves in the form of an emergent Feminist Meta-ethical position has asserted itself in yet another most recent cinematic iteration of the Frankenstein text.
I don’t wish you lost and semantics as I defined what I mean by feminist Meta ethical position as it emerges from the latest iteration of the Frankenstein film franchise. I think it would be good enough to say that it embodies an ethic of care, rather than an ethic of exploitation, and negates the Science and The Death of Nature paradigm. also embodies a kind of moral realism which is more than simply positionally, or radically relevant to the text. I have my position on this topic because of the absolute impossibility of synthesizing a gargantuan amount of discourse on this topic. However in the following paper though it denies a consensus feminist meta-ethical position nevertheless it recognizes the process by which feminism elevates previously issues overlooked by other ethicists.
For example after I listened to my wife lecture on the immediate events after which a Odysseus in the Odyssey kills all the suitors in the battle royal. He then takes the 12 maids who had been Penelope use attendance and sexually satisfied her suitors keeping her chaste, and hangs them shipboard from a single rope. I share this information with my recently retired University of Wisconsin Eau Claire distinguish philosophy professor Dr. Ned Beach and though had to and reading skills in the classical language he informed me that he was totally unaware of that section of Odysseus role as Judge Jury and executioner the Odyssey.
To explain how critical attention might be drawn to this section of the Odyssey I turn to a theory of history and literature I have been developing across the fabric of my lifetime I have a kind of utilitarian view of literature, a view that has its roots in my early study of platonic philosophy. What this means is that a work becomes interesting when a masked historical reality manifests itself in an artistic creation. For example, there is a section of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick where Captain Ahab tells Ishmael why he hunts the White Whale. He alludes to a universe of forms, which underlies apparent reality. For most of the time the underlying reality is not accessible to us except for certain rifts. For example, there is a section of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick where Ahab tells Ishmael why he hunts the whale. He alludes to a universe of forms which underlies apparent reality. For most of the time the underlying reality is not accessible to us except for certain rifts. It is important that my theory not reduced to any kind vulgar Marxist sub-super structure analysis, or for that matter any thinly disguised Hegelian idealism theologically footslogging up a seemingly upward Escher like stairwell.
So then the what more can I say about the nature of this underlying historical reality which we know by its effects in the same way that we note the movements of tectonic forces by shaking crashing skyscrapers, exploding pipelines and gas mains, and broken nuclear containments. And initially beer can height tsunami racing and across the Pacific ocean driving water at near supersonic to crash into in distant shores in ten meter high walls in an existential reality stripped of metaphysical pretentions, in the form of a reality which is even linguistically undeniable.
Victor Frankenstein released in 2015 and told from Igor’s perspective, was directed Paul McGuigan and written by Max Landis released by fox studios with a running time of one hour and forty nine minutes in running . This version completely refocuses the narrative direction of the original 1818 text and for that matter either of the two cinematic versions of it covered earlier in this paper. Of course the film must make certain required and necessary gestures of historical to intended audience to meet marketing requirements which demand it be some degree of recognizable with both the historical textual and screen versions of the franchise, the, yet at other have worked their way into perhaps even asserted themselves into the film. So the neologism of phallogocentrism that dominates the behavior of all the major male characters in the earlier versions cited in this paper is at the least deflected, and I would contend deflated by other elements of the film particularity on an ethical and I would argue on feminist a meta ethical level.http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-body/ reference these scientific and technological developments.
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Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. (Rev). NY: Oxford U. Press, 1985,
_____. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1977.
Ackerly, Brooke, and Katy Attanasi. 2009. “Global Feminisms: Theory and Ethics for Studying Gendered Injustice.” New Political Science 31, no. 4: 543-555. Political Science Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 13, 2015).
2 Incidentally according to my late father-in -aw Joe Bogstad 1916-2010 until the early 1990’s that tire plant employed more workers than UW-Eau Claire
Originally: a mythical creature which is part animal and part human, or combines elements of two or more animal forms, and is frequently of great size and ferocious appearance. Later, more generally: any imaginary creature that is large, ugly, and frightening: The centaur, sphinx, and minotaur are examples of ‘monsters’ encountered by various mythical heroes; the griffin, wyvern, etc., are later heraldic forms.
c1375 Chaucer. “Monk’s Tale”3302 Was neuere wight sith that this world bigan That slow so manye monstres as dide he [sc. Hercules].
?a1393 Gower. “Confessio Amantis (Fairf.)” vii. 1145 A Monstre [sc. Sagittarius] with a bowe on honde: On whom that sondri sterres stonde.
c1430 (?c1386) Chaucer. “Legend Good Women” 1928 This Mynos hadde a monstre, a wiked best.
4 http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/learner/modality countable] (formal) the particular way in which something exists, is experienced or is done They are researching a different modality of treatment for the disease.
 Kaveny, Philip. “From Pessimism to Sentimentality: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Becomes Blade Runner,” Science Fiction Research Association Conference, June 1983. Baltimore, MD. Published in Patterns in the Fantastic II, Mercer Is., WA: Starmont House. 1985.