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|Title:||Frankenstein; Or The Modern Prometheus and The Inoculated Reader|
|Advisor:||Coldwell, Dr. Joan|
|Abstract:||My thesis examines the relationship between Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and the Frankenstein myth as it has come to be known because of film. I propose that present-day readers, in addition to having a repository of literary knowledge, also have a reservoir of filmic memories on which to draw when they read. These visual 'texts' can function, I argue, not only as inter-texts but also as signs, indicating to us how to read certain written texts. Building on reader-response criticism, I include these visual signs in my analysis of the reading experience of Frankenstein. After outlining a brief history of visualizations of the novel on stage and in film and commenting on the contributions these adaptations gave to the story, I focus on the James Whale classics of 1931 and 1935. It is to. these films that we owe the figures of the Karloffian monster, the hunchbacked assistant, the 'mad' scientist, and the monster's grotesque 'bride.' Having imitated the common order of our exposure to the myth --that is we know or know of Frankenstein films before we arrive at the novel I define and explain the theoretical concepts of narrative and filmic afterimages. then discuss their circulation in and revitalization through such agencies as advertisements, cartoons, and film and television remakes, illustrating how the Frankenstein story continues to be invoked and reworked in our culture. I then turn to the novel and focus, first, on its reception and treatment by literary critics. Next, I examine its questioning and, at times, subverting, of such institutions as science, marriage, and orthodox Christianity. I also examine the novel's questioning of such concepts as narrative closure, the unity of character, and the possiblity of knowing 'reality.' At the same time, I illustrate (1) how literary critics, in dismissing the novel as flawed, actually shield us from the novel's subversiveness and (2) how film versions of Frankenstein and their circulating afterimages not only work to diminish the dis-ease which the novel elicits but, in fact, inoculate us against this dis-ease. I conclude my study by relying on yet another metaphor --Freud's concept of "screen memory." We have, as my thesis illustrates, been effectively screened from Mary Shelley's novel. The version of the myth as it has come to be known by today's reader is not only tame (and tamed) by comparison but is, in some instances, antithetical to the novel. What I propose is both an acceptance of filmic afterimages of novels which have been visualized and a critical reading of these images. In the case of Frankenstein, once we become aware of how certain filmic afterimages are operating, we can work towards a "cleansing of the doors of perception," so that in removing the film from before our eyes, we may see yet another, darker side of the myth.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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