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“Frankenstein is Romanticism's great anti-Romantic text”. Discuss. (2007)

“Frankenstein is Romanticism's great anti-Romantic text”. Discuss. (2007)

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Published by Adzza24
-1LITERATURE IN HISTORY I semester 2007 Second coursework assignment: Romanticism 7) “Frankenstein is Romanticism's great anti-Romantic text”. Discuss.

Autumn

The Romantic period is characterised by specific ideas which flow through the body of work produced by its contributing authors. These include such themes as nature, innocence, individuality and freedom. It is through these channels that writers began to make political statements, governmental criticisms, and rally for revolution against
-1LITERATURE IN HISTORY I semester 2007 Second coursework assignment: Romanticism 7) “Frankenstein is Romanticism's great anti-Romantic text”. Discuss.

Autumn

The Romantic period is characterised by specific ideas which flow through the body of work produced by its contributing authors. These include such themes as nature, innocence, individuality and freedom. It is through these channels that writers began to make political statements, governmental criticisms, and rally for revolution against

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-1
LITERATURE IN HISTORY 
I
Autumnsemester 2007Second coursework assignment: Romanticism
7) “
Frankenstein
is Romanticism's great anti-Romantic text”. Discuss.
The Romantic period is characterised by specific ideas which flow through the bodyof work produced by its contributing authors. These include such themes as nature,innocence, individuality and freedom. It is through these channels that writers beganto make political statements, governmental criticisms, and rally for revolution againstrepression. The writers became much freer with their work and removed the stricturesof their predecessors to allow a greater scope and liberation to manipulate the texthow they wanted and needed. Superficially there are many aspects of 
Frankenstein
which render it both a part of and apart from this movement. In order to merge it intoor distinguish it from the period these must be explored to discover how closely itrelates.The character of Frankenstein can be seen in many ways as anti-Romantic.Romantic writers such as Keats and Wordsworth often used the ‘common man’
1
asthe hero in their work, an idea begun by Rousseau. Shelly on the other hand presentsher reader with a man well educated, widely travelled, with an ease of access tomoney and resources without working, or enduring the hardships of the impoverishedclasses. Another element which flows contrary to Romanticism is that Frankenstein’sliberation and fulfilment of his heart’s desires leads him down the path of destruction.Romantic writing puts enormous emphasis on the heart ruling the head; emotion over logic; intuition over reason. Although Frankenstein’s compliance with this relates it tothe period, his unfortunate outcome because of it suggests that it is not as importantas contemporary writers believed, and works in contrast to Romanticism.Nature is a key theme of Romanticism, yet Frankenstein’s monster is completelyunnatural from pre-birth. He is denied the womb, and is created from fragments of others by a human hand. The ‘daemoncould only be more unnatural if he were
1
Cited on: http://www.levity.com/mavericks/romantic.htm, ‘The Romantic Style’, Paragraph 2
1
 
composed of a metal, and even then it would probably be more acceptable. This isthe contradiction of all that is emphasised in Romantic literature. Poets such as Blakeand Wordsworth place enormous energy into the importance of nature and our complete submersion in it, yet Frankenstein’s monster walks above it. That one of themain characters of the novel is so detached from nature is surely a removal, and thusa reversal, of one of the key themes which appears in many of the main literary worksfrom the period. This supports the assertion that
Frankenstein
is an anti-Romanticnovel.
Frankenstein
is very often considered as a Gothic novel before a Romantic one. Itcertainly has the “terrifiedhero and the terrifying villain and is etched withsupernatural and horrific events, details which are analogous to Gothicism
2
. Perhapsthen there is insufficient correlation between Romanticism and
Frankenstein
to render it a Romantic text above Gothic. However is it really
anti 
-Romantic?In many ways it can be seen to fit into the Romantic period with ease. Despite themonster’s removal from nature due to his completely unnatural conception and birth,he often describes the scenery around him with zeal
3
. It seems as if, although notfrom it, he is at one with nature, for when he is enraged the night is dark and “fierce”
4
 and, similarly, he is affected by nature
5
. This close association with nature and lavishdescriptions of it are integral to Romantic literature. Keats uses natural imagery inpoems like
To Autumn
6
to convey and disguise political messages, and Blake usednature to represent innocence in poems like
The Sick Rose
.Despite his claims that he “considered Satan as the fitter emblem of [his] condition”and that “often, like him [Satan], when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter 
2
“Rejecting the Enlightenment ideal of balance and rationalism, readers eagerly sought out the hysterical, mystical,passionate adventures of terrified heroes and heroines in the clutches of frightening, mysterious forces.” - ‘The GothicRomance’, http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/romanticism.html
3
“[S]pring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine” - Shelly,
Frankenstein
, p112
4
M. Shelly,
Frankenstein
, Penguin, 1994, p125
5
“The day… cheered even me by the loveliness of its sunshine” - Shelly,
Frankenstein,
p135
6
Keats, ‘To Autumn’ Lecture handout from Week 10, p1
2
 
gall of envy rose within me”
7
, Frankenstein’s monster is still an innocent at birth. It isthe inflictions caused by other human beings which cripple his soul, perhaps more sobecause of his innocence and thus his fatal willingness to trust. The original idea of innocence at birth is one developed widely in works by Blake. In his poems
The LittleGirl Lost 
and
The Little Girl Found 
8
the child Lyca sleeps through everything, blindedby her own heavy eyelids from the truth that she is lost and in danger. The monster in
Frankenstein
displays the same blindness but to his own appearance. The night onwhich the monster's unwitting companions leave, "a fierce wind arose from thewoods"
9
resembling not only the monster's rage but his rebirth into 'adulthood'. Onthis same night he leaves his hovel and sets out into the world, fledging the nest.The monster promises with conviction that a companion will return him to his innocentways, yet is it really possible to return? Surely once you have looked beyond thequixotic veil of colour into the grey abyss of corruption, anything once again seenthrough the veil would appear childish and false, and the vision would be readjustedby the mind into one of transparency. This is an observation made by the monster himself: "Of what strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has onceseized on it, like lichen on rock". The monster, after his first shock of reality doesbegin to return to innocence as he roams the forest and stumbles into a beautiful dayof "sunshine and… balminess"
, but almost immediately after he is jolted back toreality with a bullet in his shoulder. This is a clear reminder of the inevitable fate of themonster: he can never escape human corruption. These observations on innocenceand corruption are the central ideas of other writers such as Blake
andWordsworth
who were influenced by Rousseau’s notion that we are born free, butthat civilisation put us in chains
. Shelly’s exploration of innocence is a vital link to
7
M. Shelly,
Frankenstein
, Penguin, 1994, p133
8
W. Blake,
Innocence and of Experience
(Innocence), ed. R. Willmott, Oxford University Press, 1990
9
M. Shelly,
Frankenstein
, Penguin, 1994, p125
10
Shelly,
Frankenstein,
p135
11
Blake,
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
12
Wordsworth and Coleridge,
Lyrical Ballads
, ed. R.L Brett and A.R. Jones, Routledge, 1991
13
Cited on: http://www.levity.com/mavericks/romantic.htm, ‘Libertarianism’, Paragraph 3
3

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