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The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

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Minnie d'Arc

The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Minnie d'Arc » Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:12 am

I’ve wanted to start a thread on this subject for some time, as I believe that there’s potential for some interesting discussion and exchanges of opinions.

While Dracula, and vampires in general, because of their openness to interpretation, remain an enduring – and alluring – source of fascination to the goth culture, the tale of Frankenstein – and it’s numerous cinematic interpretations – remains equally potent, despite the fact that, as a symbol, the relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his pitiful creation are, overall, less flexible, less adaptable, to other situations, than the image of the vampire. At source – the original 1818 novel - we don’t have the classic “Good versus Evil” equation which propels the vampire mythos; it is far more complex, far more open to philosophical interpretation, and as such, I believe, becomes a very self-contained statement. If it had been a modern-day piece of cinema, I would have walked away from it thinking, “This is a one-off. No possibility of a sequel, no way you can use this story as a universal archetype.”

Which, to me, makes it fascinating that the Frankenstein story has been so enduring and so embedded itself in popular consciousness. Consider the fate of other classic works of literature of the early to mid nineteenth century; while there are countless adaptations of the works of the Bronte sisters’ novels, or the works of Jane Austen, it isn’t until very recently that anyone has even dreamed of trying to use those works as the basis of a “franchise” (although I do keep in mind the recent trend for post-modern, tongue-in-cheek visits to those literary universes – for example, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”).

So, in this thread, I think it’s worth considering:

1) Mary Shelley’s original novel and its place in gothic culture as a whole (and, indeed, whether it is a gothic novel);
2) The themes of the novel;
3) Whether the novel has necessarily been fairly treated, particularly by cinematic adaptations – has there been a “perfect” Frankenstein adaptaion?

I’m interested in your impressions…
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Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby nachtvlinder » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:02 am

While I have to confess I have never read the original book (bad nachtvlinder, I know :wink: ) and it has been ages since I have seen any cinematic adaptation, I would say that the allure of Frankenstein is related to something close to the nature of mankind, namely to use technology to attempt to change/adapt/improve the world. While this used to be outward things, like technologies to improve farming, build better houses, etc., technologies are also touching the human body more and more. To prevent or cure diseases, or improve general functioning. Creating or improving people in a lab, whether by scientists of good faith or complete lunatics, appeals, I think, to something (the desire to improve) that we all are familiar with on a everyday level (hey, who hasn't tried to improve their looks?), but because of the nature of the procedure or how far it goes are also scares us a little, while at the same time being fascinating. In a certain way, I think Shelley's story and the adaptation raise questions about what it is to be human.

If the book is also about what it is to be human in a technological age (or even a technological human), then I think that there are probably a lot of adaptations (like mutant-stories). But given that I've never read the book, I'll shut up now. Maybe I should go and check whether it is available online... I'll come back to this thread when I've read it, I think.
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Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Midieval Fantasy » Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:21 am

Damn.

When I first read the title of the thread, I thought it was going to be a discussion about the Greek God Prometheus (whom I was actually thinking about just last night, before bed) and the role of Mythology in Modern Culture....damn again.

As for this topic, I honestly have no imput of value since I, too, have not read the book.
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Topic author
Minnie d'Arc

Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Minnie d'Arc » Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:35 am

And yet...

Bear with it, Midi. After all, the full title of the novel is "Frankenstein, or, a Modern Prometheus" for a reason - you may well find there are resonances with Greek mythology when the discussion opens out a bit, and I think a comparison with its antecedents could be of absolutely massive value!
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Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Puck the WaltzQueen » Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:09 am

I think some of the fasniation with this book is that you can connect and empathize with the characters on some level. Victor's curiosity seems to be a trait found in all humans and it seems a tale of what happens when you get the answers you've been searching for. That makes it feel a little like a cautionary fairy tale to me.
There's also the monster's side of things. The changes, moving from a state of simple existence to complex thought feels a lot like growing up. And to not be accepted for some reason or another also seems like a part of growing up. The monster's loss of the bride and the hope for company she brought is much like a mother having a stillborn child with all that entails.
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Topic author
Minnie d'Arc

Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Minnie d'Arc » Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:42 pm

I totally agree with what you're saying about Victor, Puck. In a sense, I believe that it evokes a number of, admittedly, cliched sentiments - "curiosity killed the cat," "be careful what you wish for..." And indeed, this is where the connection with the Prometheus legend is most clearly established - correct me, Midi, if I'm wrong, but if I remember correctly, Prometheus was fascinated by the knowledge of Fire, and took it specifically to benefit humankind - thus, Victor Frankenstein "steals" the secret of Life from the Gods in order - initially to benefit Humanity, driven, as he is, by the loss of his mother.

I also share your belief that the novel is so wonderful because it also DOES present the point of view of Victor's creation. What, in the Universal Pictures film series, and in the Hammer horror movies of the 1950s and 60s, is effectively a monstrous creature with little to evoke sympathy (although, to be fair, the first of the Universal "Frankenstein" series does at least pay lip service to that aspect of the original novel) is, to my mind, over-compensated for in the 1994 "Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein".

I also agree, the creature does undergo a very rapid period of self-schooling, and, in a very short period, encounters all the problems that we encounter in childhood and youth. I think this may be amongst the most imaginative and interesting aspects of Mary Shelley's work, particularly at a time when science fiction, as such - which might have posited the concept of accelerated development - did not exist.

The ideas you're expressing on the subject of the relationship between the creature and the bride he never has are extremely interesting, and I hadn't considered the "stillborn child" angle. I think you've hit something very perceptive - can you develop that?
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Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Puck the WaltzQueen » Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:44 pm

The Bride was supposed to be his only refuge in a world that hated him and would rather dance upon his corpse than see him happy. He was going to spend time with her , possibly teach her everything he knew, make sure she grew up fat and happy, without making the same mistakes he did. Much like a child, she was going to stay with him for the rest of their lives.

Mary Shelley lost a premature child before losing her other two chlidren. Perhaps she was projecting her woes onto the monster of Victor's? She was likely projecting other things as well. She was outcast for hooking up with a married man and marrying him directly after his wife's suicide. Her husband drowned, as did Victor's friend in the story. So it seems Miss Mary is projecting alot more than just loss of children.

her outcastment = monster's outcastment
her loss of child = monster's loss of bride
her dealing with her husband's wife's suicide = victor's guilt over letting a family friend die
her husband's drowning = Victor's friend's drowning

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Drowned out by the devil's horn, which blew as though it were enraged.

Puck the Paradisiacal is An Avid Fan of Added Alliterative Appeal.

Topic author
Minnie d'Arc

Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Minnie d'Arc » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:12 pm

That's brilliant! However, please bear in mind that Shelley drowned in 1822, four years after the novel was published; if anything, the novel foreshadows that tragedy with incredible prescience.

However, as compensation, it should be noted that Mary Shelley, like her creation, Victor, lost her mother at a very early age. Coincidence?

The other points you make are extremely astutely observed. I think Mary Shelley may well have been tying together many of the strands of her extremely complex life in the plot of the novel, which makes the whole so much more of a satisfying piece - after all, it has incredible coherence and maturity.
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Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Puck the WaltzQueen » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:12 am

What better way to connect with characters than to make them so life like they're almost in the room with you.And of course the best way to make them life like is to use your life. This all brings in another layer to "write what you know"
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Drowned out by the devil's horn, which blew as though it were enraged.

Puck the Paradisiacal is An Avid Fan of Added Alliterative Appeal.

Topic author
Minnie d'Arc

Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Minnie d'Arc » Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:10 am

I completely agree. It's sad to think, though, that such tragic circumstances inform the writing of the novel.

To me, the central characters - the creature and Victor - are essentially the best drawn; those associated with Victor - even Elizabeth, and Henri Clerval - are somewhat flatter. However, I think that's natural, and excusable, given that the narrative is almost entirely in the first person.

And, speaking of Henri, did anyone feel that his role in the story was really minimised in "Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"'? While I like many other aspects of that film, I felt that Henri's death was absolutely a vital element of the depiction of the disintegration of Victor's world in the novel, and of his torment at the hands of his creation; and the fact that's entirely absent from the film was a creative blunder, particularly in view of another issue which I will certainly mention at the appropriate point.
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Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Puck the WaltzQueen » Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:12 am

I've only read the book and have never seen a single movie with Frankenstein in the title.
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Drowned out by the devil's horn, which blew as though it were enraged.

Puck the Paradisiacal is An Avid Fan of Added Alliterative Appeal.

Topic author
Minnie d'Arc

Re: The Modern Prometheus; an appreciation/discussion

Postby Minnie d'Arc » Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:24 am

I think you'd find the 1931 Karloff "Frankenstein", as a cinema classic, and the 1994 Kenneth Branagh adaptation, interesting viewing with the knowledge you clearly have of the novel. They make great "Compare and Contrast" material.
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