Tag Archive: power


Education As a Form of Rebellion

I think one of the biggest ideas which Mary Shelley introduced in her novel Frankenstein that enriches Jessica Rae Fisher’s views on transgender rage and kindness is the idea that knowledge and education hold power and through education/knowledge, one possesses the strongest and most necessary tool someone can use to stand up for themselves in society. Susan Stryker acknowledges this idea in her essay “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix” as well and my biggest response, and advice, to Jessica would be that through continuing to be educated she can and will go much further than her oppressors and bullies. Through education she will learn the proper tools to fight back and she can use her rage to fuel her thirst for knowledge and eventually, settle her place in society. With something so simple, such as being knowledgeable, a person can rebel in a kind manner and this is something I think Stryker was trying to argue for in her essay as well.

One thing I have always personally believed is that education is power and it will be the difference between a naive view and sense of the world compared to an educated person’s who would view the world through a truthful lense. The creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a perfect representation of this long held belief. When the creature is first created, and he sets off into society on his own, he does not know what his place in society is or even what he is. Victor Frankenstein’s abandonment lead the creature to be uneducated and without any proper sense of the world he was forced to be a part of. However, through his finding of famous works – such as Milton’s Paradise Lost – and by observing the cottagers, the creature was then able to self-educate himself  and he was able to learn about the proper way humans are meant to interact and teaches himself not to accept the improper treatment he had encountered before. Stryker states in her essay, “The monster accomplishes this resistance by mastering language in order to claim a position as a speaking subject and enact verbally the very subjectivity denied it in the specular realm.” (241) She is demonstrating that because the creature pursued his desire of knowledge he was able to create a resistance for himself because he then leveled himself with the rest of society and was able to use it to his full advantage to eventually be on top of those who oppressed him. In the novel, it was always in the creature’s intention to learn and educate himself in order to roam within society without fear and this is seen in the novel when the creature states, “I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become master of their language; which knowledge might enable me to make them overlook the deformity of my figure” (104). In this part of the novel, I concluded that Shelley was trying to argue that the way to be able to stand up for yourself within society is through knowledge. No one is ever able to take away the education and knowledge that is bestowed upon yourself and therefore, education demands respect and acknowledgement from other members of society. If a person is educated and is willing to use it to their advantage and as a tool to grow, then society can never make them feel inferior and that is something I would remind Jessica of.  

Overall, I think Jessica Rae Fisher can use her education and her willingness to grow as an individual to her full advantage just as the creature was able to throughout Frankenstein. The creature in the novel was able to highlight the issues that existed within his society after he was able to communicate and understand everything that was wrong in the first place. He would have never had a voice to do so had it not been for his desire to learn and his will to be an educated member of society. Once he had the knowledge he desired, he was able to critique the people among him and express his concerns – and I think that is exactly what Jessica has been doing but should continue to do. I believe that the only way people are going to learn is by being reminded of, and being called out on, the problems they are provoking. By the end of the novel the readers are able to see how Frankenstein and the creature are then considered equals and they parallel one another thus showing that with education one can soon overcome those with power over them. I think the idea of letting rage fuel someone’s desire to learn, and using knowledge and education as a kind way of rebelling, is very important and it is a proper way for people in any LGBT community to rebel against a society that makes them feel inferior.

-Beverly Miranda-Galindo

Advertisements

Samantha Shapiro

Jessica Rae Fisher promotes the idea of reclaiming slurs such as “tranny” and “creature” to “embrace…queerness” as an extensional support of Stryker’s desire to “lay claim to the dark power of [her] monstrous identity without using it as a weapon against others or being wounded by it myself,” or accept being a “monster,” and accept the separateness, yet togetherness established in reclaiming the term (Stryker 240). In reclaiming words used against them, they are able to be moved to “disidentification with compulsorily  assigned subject positions” (Stryker 248) and become something else through manipulating the very things that bind them into their monstrous labels.

Fisher purports that they “don’t think there’s any shame in living life in rageful ways,” in doing so helps to transform to conforming to the “priority in living life in compassionate ways” (Fisher). We can see similarities to the stances brought on by Stryker and Fisher through the first meeting of Robert Walton and the creature, and the lack of reclaiming occurring by the final scenes within Frankenstein.

“And do you dream?” said the daemon; “do you think that I was then dead to agony and remorse? — He,” he continued, pointing to the corpse, “he suffered not in the consummation of the deed — oh! not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of its execution. A frightful selfishness hurried me on, while my heart was poisoned with remorse. Think you that the groans of Clerval were music to my ears? My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine.

“After the murder of Clerval I returned to Switzerland heartbroken and overcome. I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror: I abhorred myself But when I discovered that he, the author at once of my existence and of its unspeakable torments, dared to hope for happiness; that while he accumulated wretchedness and despair upon me he sought his own enjoyment in feelings and passions from the indulgence of which I was forever barred, then impotent envy and bitter indignation filled me with an insatiable thirst for vengeance. I recollected my threat and resolved that it should be accomplished. I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture; but I was the slave, not the master, of an impulse which I detested, yet could not disobey. Yet when she died! — nay, then I was not miserable. I had cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of my despair. 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 daemoniacal

design became an insatiable passion. And now it is ended; there is my last victim!”

Clearly “fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy.”

The creature was “fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy” from its creation, but in it, was externally terrifying to others, and brought into the world by Frankenstein only to fall into “vice and hatred,” (186) unable to withstand a change in itself and desires once rejected and tormented by the humans he was supposed to find happiness under. With the creature being forced into murder and deceit through a “frightful selfishness,” his very own “heart…fashioned of love and sympathy” towards humans shattered, “poisoned with remorse” (186).

A lonely creature

In being created in such a manner, rejected by others just because he was born a certain way, he was “forever barred” (186) from feelings and passions available to seemingly any other living creature, forever separated and isolated from an almost parallel situations of transsexuals rejected from their own communities, as Fisher questions how “social creatures,” or fellow humans, “could ever be expected to take care of ourselves when we are isolated and/or rejected from our communities” (Fisher). The creature then chooses to “cast off all feeling, subdued all anguish, to riot in the excess of [its] despair,” forced to “adapt my nature to an element which I had willingly chosen” by reclaiming itself as a “daemon” through murder (186).

Other selfish drives 

Rather than willingly choose, though, in control of anything, the creature became a “slave…of an impulse which [it] detested,” (186) or forced into trying to reclaim something it truly doesn’t want to turn to, albeit in a selfish drive. In this instance, while the creature appears to try and reclaim its daemonical nature through its rage and suffering, because it does so as “the slave, not the master, of an impulse which [it] detested,” it is unable to truly “reclaim the term” as the creature resolves to do so “using it as a weapon against others” and ends up “being wounded by it itself” (Stryker 240).

Gendering for Power

Anne Mellor argues in her essay “A Feminist Critique of Science” that “the scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics” (12). While Mellor’s point that scientists, specifically males like Victor, manipulate and conquer nature to their own benefit and glory by reducing it to the same position women are subjugated to has validity, it is important to acknowledge that these sexual politics work concurrently with capitalistic motives that cause women and nature to be overpowered by a hierarchy of power. Thus, it is through the stripping of agency and imposing of a fragile, feminine perception that men take advantage of the natural world to achieve their godly desires of power and glory.

Various statements made by the male characters, especially men of science, emphasize the power held by men that elevate them to positions of superiority and disregard the actions of other people, like women, and natural processes. This dominance revolves around a focus on their singularity in which they and they alone are view themselves as the ones to achieve an action or possess the power to achieve something almost impossible. Doctor Waldman states that scientists are able to “penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding places” (Shelley 52), gendering nature with the feminine pronoun of she. In doing so, he is saying that scientists have the power to truly dissect and break apart every inch of nature to not only reveal its workings but also imitate it. The use of penetrate to describe their power over the female gendered nature establishes their place above women and nature, indicating each’s submissive qualities that can be dominated by the male’s will. In highlighting their excellence and the potential they have to gain further status, men of science disregard the miracles of others and the natural world they wish to keep below them. As he fantasizes about creating a living being, Victor Frankenstein says, “[M]any happy natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve it” (Shelley 57). While giving life back into a deceased body is a major feat, Victor depicts the birth of his being as an event worth of more recognition than anything else. This completely disregards the miracle and wonder of the standard birth by women where they, in collaboration with Mother Nature is responsible for the biological processes by which the birth must go through, grow an entire being within them from scratch instead of picking remnants of already created bodies just as Victor did. Even though women have abilities, the dominant male gender places their feats above them, erasing the women’s history of success and their agency that makes them into second-rate citizens and easy targets for exploitation by men.

By reducing women and other components of life like nature to subordinate positions inferior to men and their “scientific” endeavors, men develop a major ego in which they overlook the consequences of their actions on others and turn the misfortunes of others into advantages to preserve their superiority and advance their goal they are fixated on. Victor, like other scientists Mellor mentions “[whose] professional detachment often precluded a concern with ethics and politics in their research. They prefe[r] to leave the problems resulting from the social application of their discoveries to others” (Mellor 12), are so focused on the greatness he can achieve by producing life that he ignores his effects on the beings and natural world around him. By disrupting the natural order of the development of life and belittling the authority and importance of women as the primary sources of life and other natural procedures that maintain existence but are gendered to feminine and weak, Victor sets himself and his abilities on a pedestal and uses the weakness of the feminine as means to achieve his goal of life. While women and nature have been reproducing the miracle of life forever and without them the concept wouldn’t exist, their efforts and labor were to no avail except for the men of science who took ownership of the process and hold themselves above all others. Men of science find ways to imitate the powers of the forces they gender as feminine and weak, and therefore at their mercy to exploit, and reap their benefits while the latter’s agency and authenticity is erased and they are pushed below their exploiters.

-Wendy Gutierrez

By Isaac Gallegos Rodriguez

A-drawing-by-Karen-Greenlee-representing-her-mindset-towards-necrophilia

The principles and teachings of psychiatry, although contested by some, produces an interesting means of literary analysis. When applying Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny and the psychoanalytic lens onto Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, more specifically Victor’s ‘wildest dream’ (pg. 60), we can begin to go ‘beneath the surface’ of the character Victor Frankenstein and further understand his obsession with death.

Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny theorizes that the ‘uncanny’ is the term for unfamiliar things that frighten us and help us remember what is known and familiar. Freud continues to expand on this idea of the uncanny and asserts that the uncanny is the revelation of ‘what is private and concealed, and meant to be hidden’; the uncanny, or what we deem frightening, is part of our deeper unconscious selves, and is highly connected with the psychoanalytical idea of the ‘return of the repressed’: the process whereby repressed elements, preserved in the unconscious, tend to reappear, in consciousness or in behavior. Our understanding of the uncanny and the return of the repressed can be applied to Victor Frankenstein’s “wildest dream”(pg. 60) and can further help us understand Frankenstein’s demented and troubled psyche:

“I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel.”(Shelley, 60)

The most alarming information from Victor’s dream, which Freud has claimed help us greatly understand our unconscious desires, is the sudden shift of lover: he begins the tale by embracing his cousin-love Elizabeth, to doing the same but with the rotting corpse of his mother. This image creates an uncanny effect on Victor, however, it may help us understand the thing that was ‘meant to be hidden’. The most blatant understand would, again, be connected to a psychoanalytic idea — the Oepidal complex. The Oepidal complex is a term to describe a male’s initial desire to be with his mother; the fact that in his dream Victor goes from holding his current lover to his former mother can enforce the idea that Frankenstein wanted to be with his mother, unfortunately, our psychological mechanics and social environments would have never this extreme form of incest. And knowing this, the “shroud [that] enveloped her [Mother] form”(Shelley, 60) this shroud can be a metaphor, that not only has the society made Victor’s idea unobtainable, now the ultimate barrier, death itself, has sealed its impossibility.

Except for that Frankenstein doesn’t see death as an impenetrable barrier, he sees death as “ideal bounds, which I should first break through”(Shelley, 57).  This is why Victor’s apparent Oepidus complex can establish a correlation between his disregard of life and death and his ultimate desire for reanimation. This can be seen as his return of the repressed; Victor’s actions are influenced by his unconscious desire for his dead mother. He is willing to create chaos and misery in his life, to know that now not even the strongest obstacle in the universe, death itself can separate his ‘love’ for his mother.

Sigmund Freud, through his vast contributions to psychoanalytic criticism, helps illuminate the major themes of life, death, and power found in Frankenstein. As complex individuals, nature has created mechanisms that keep us ‘sane’ and functional. We have filters that separate our present, socially influenced selves and our chaotic, primal unconscious; when, through flukes, the divides between our identities blur for an instant, we shudder at ourselves, we shudder at the uncanniness of ourselves.

 

 

 

Capitalism creates oppressive conditions for working-class proletariat that belittle their value as individuals and their existence. Warren Montag’s essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” examines how the the plight of the proletariat by the wealthy bourgeoisie is reflected in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Montang concludes that Frankenstein’s monster is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480). I agree with Montag that the monster is a sign of the proletariat’s unrepresentability, considering the monster’s devaluation and grievances.

Under capitalism, the proletariats, are alienated not only from the products of their labor but also themselves. The poor workers labor and produce but, because of meager wages, they will likely never have the means to afford these products no matter how much they exhaust themselves. The proletariat are also alienated from their sense of self as labor consumes their identity and their individuality is lost. This is reflected in Shelley’s novel when Frankenstein’s monster says, “I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labors. I found that the young [Felix] spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire; and, during the night, I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days” (102). One could argue that this decision to help the De Lacey family was the creature’s choice and not mandated onto him by the bourgeoisie. However, these actions were taken on as a means of survival the same way the excruciating work of the proletariat is the only way under capitalism, other than a revolution, that they can continue living. The monster’s labor is done in an effort to be recognized by the family as a benevolent being and be accepted into human society instead of being an outcast as he was made by Frankenstein and other humans. The family, who possess social capital, decides what fate the monster receives just as the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, determine how much impoverished workers are compensated. The parties who actually benefit from the labor, however, is the family who does not have to collect their own wood and the capitalists who profit from selling the products produced by the poor, while the creature and the poor continue their exploited lives.

The capitalist, bourgeois society in which Frankenstein’s monster and poor laborers alienate themselves also alienates them from other ranks in society and deprives them of their humanity. Since the proletariat produces all the products and are seen as just means to an end, little importance is placed on their lives or concerns. Montag states that, “Utterly absent from the narrative is any description or explanation of the process by which the monster was created” (477). By having this absence that Montag mentions, there is distance created between the monster and the rest of society and indicates that his origins and existence is not a matter of importance because in the end he is just the lower class who will never reach anything beyond that ranking. Also, just as the bourgeoisie “reduc[ed] the numbers of workers necessary to the production process” in order to make way for technological “industrial developments” (472), the monster is immediately abandoned by Victor Frankenstein as soon as he is dissatisfied with the final result of his creation, alluding to the characterization of worthlessness placed on the working-class that could be disposed and replaced at any moment the bourgeoisie chose. This loss of humanity and commodification, is the “unrepresentability” Montag refers to. Because the proletariat are reduced to machines working for the benefit of the upper and middle classes, they are not supposed to have a voice or have themselves or their concerns represented. The monster’s failed efforts at social mobility and his lack of power and authority not only mirror the proletariat but also marginalize him within the frame of the novel, eliminating his power to represent and voice himself within the novel as well. It is through this unrepresentability that Frankenstein’s monster represents that of the proletariat class under the oppressive conditions and unjust conditions of capitalism.  

The proletariat are monsters because of the monstrous, classist economic system developed by the rich, ruling, capitalists. The bourgeoisie did produce a product…economic servitude and the existence of the impoverished, disenfranchised proletariat. However, unlike the products forced onto the proletariat class, they receive capital that they will continue to use to exploit them, help themselves, and maintain the cycle of capitalism.

– Wendy Gutierrez

Related image

While reading Warren Montags “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, I struggled to understand where the issue was. I have come to the conclusion that there is not an issue, but issues are created. Social hierarchy has always been a constructed problem, and Montag continues to build with this essay. Montag finally says the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480). I feel like there are many ways to go about interpreting this, but ultimately I agree with him.

What Montag actually does is what we are supposed to do: a close reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He focuses on what is missing from the next, which for him is the fact that this whole story takes place during the French Revolution. At first I was speculative of this claim; I wanted to believe Frankenstein was happening in a slightly futuristic dystopian world created in Mary Shelley’s mind. However when he presented his evidence it seemed to make perfect sense to me. Never again does this happen.

Throughout the novel, the creature struggles greatly with himself and society, trying to fit in but ultimately being underrepresented and misunderstood. He is of a lower class, truly one of a kind, and can not associate his feelings with anyone else. He literally says, “I look around, and I have no relation or friend upon earth. These amiable people to whom I go have never seen me, and know little of me. I am full of fears; for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world forever” (119). However Victor is quite similar. Victor has a passion for science and discovery that not many others have, and he is quite misunderstood himself. He is an overly emotional disturbed man who feels like no one else can understand him. The one difference is his social standing. He comes from a large wealthy family who wish the best for him and live a pleasant, comfortable life. So then Victor Frankenstein is a bourgeois, as Montag says.

What really confuses this idea of proletariat versus bourgeois is who has the power. The creature is obviously physically stronger than Victor, but Victor is the one who created the being. He calls the creature a slave. There is a push and pull, a back and forth tugging at power in the novel that ultimately goes unresolved. The creature has the power to take away the lives of those who Frankenstein cares for. It is almost like a trade. Victor cursed the creature with poverty and loneliness by giving him life, and the creature is now going to do the same by taking away the most valuable parts of Frankenstein’s life. There is this extreme paradox that either character could be the one who controls the other. So while the creature does fit into the proletariat mold, he also fits into one of power, strength, and understanding, leaving him ultimately unrepresented.

Written by Mahea LaRosa

Frank

In reading Warren Montag’s “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, Montag claims that “the monster is the proletariat” (474), in that the proletariat during the times of the French Revolution, when united together, created a “monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled” (471). The bourgeoisie, being the one that was forced to rally the proletariat in order to be adequately represented, seemed to not have as much power as they may have believed, seeing as they were the elite, of higher social status, as Frankenstein was to the monster. The power then, fell onto the proletarian working class, which brings us back to Montag’s claim that the monster in the novel is the proletariat, unable to be controlled, possessing power over his creator, Victor Frankenstein (the bourgeoisie) as seen during the monster and Victor’s conversation after Victor had destroyed the companion he had begun to create when the monster states, “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom” (146). In addition, the monster, much like the proletariat, did not seem to have much a “voice” in the society in which he worked so hard to be accepted by and even “endured toil and misery” (145) as a result.

In conclusion, I somewhat agree with Montag’s conclusion that the creature is “not so much a sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480), because while he was not so much connected with the “working” class since he did not necessarily work as a proletariat did during the times of the French and English Revolutions, he was however, very much connected to the proletariat in the fact that they were unrepresented, looked down upon, and had struggled under the bourgeoisie, or in the monster’s case, as a result of the actions of the bourgeoisie (Frankenstein).

-Serena Ya

Power Politics, not Sexual Politics

REVISED

I think Mellor’s point that the gendering of nature and science in the novel are a problem has validity. I think she reads current cultural ideologies too far into 19th century culture, however, and wrongly conflates the science of that era with that of today.

“The scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics” (12) Mellor says. She seems to be saying this not just of 19th century science, but also modern science. Mellor sees manipulation as damning of all science, past and present.

In the passages of Frankenstein that describe Victor’s early interactions with science, there is lots of gendered language, placing him as the Male, and nature as the female: “Destiny…and her immutable laws” (49), “nature…show how she works in her hiding places” (53). I have a hard time with the way Anne Mellor expects a non-oppressive relationship between things perceived as male and things perceived as female in the early 19th century. Men were scientists. Women were homemakers. Men were active. Women actually were fairly passive. These were the things men perceived both women and Nature to be. Were they wrong? Absolutely. But at that point in time, gender roles were Gender Rules. Today, we break them, we bend them, we ignore them, we change them, and society may criticize, but gender roles do not carry the same weight in our lives now.

Similarly, science then is not what science is now. Morality and science cross each other frequently today, and scientists are generally very concerned with the ethics of research and especially medical decisions. We have agencies regulating such aspects of science. Would Anne Mellor object to donating organs because it goes outside the realm of understanding the body and into altering it? How does she feel about surgeries to remove or add or enhance parts of the body that are detrimental/missing/malfunctioning? Instead of evaluating 19th century science through the lens of 19th century culture, Mellor evaluates 19th century science through the lens of 21st century culture, and then calls it all the same.