Tag Archives: 571

The Monstrosity of Reading in Context

When I first proposed my project, I thought that a classroom assignment would be more interesting seeing as I’ve never tried organizing one before (see previous post to understand why my project is changing in direction). The project that I previously proposed had no focus and introduced a variety of themes, one of which was the function of language in conversation. I have decided to stick with the 1818 edition, rather than compare the two texts as it would be too ambitious of a project in this given time frame.

When I first approached Frankenstein in the extra credit assignment, I started to see a trend in Safie, recognized as the Arabian, and her father, the Turk. One of the questions I hope to answer in my final paper is why Mary Shelley chose to interchangeably use different identifiers throughout the text. Why is Henry Clerval not referred to with an identifier?

Furthermore, with Frankenstein, one of the key aspects I noticed was the acquisition of language and the authority envisioned by the characters through their interaction(s) with one another. To approach this project, I am comparing the acquisition of language through the monster’s perspective versus how Victor Frankenstein treats language in interactions with others (e.g. Henry Clerval).  By narrowing it down to a category for comparison, I will be able to take a pedagogical approach on how the name functions, especially through postcolonial criticism. How are the characters exploited through their loss of a name? or through dominant languages? The digital tool I will be using is Keyword in Context and I will use it to assist my analysis rather than as the primary method of research.

When researching, I found a variety of sources referring to Frankenstein as a postcolonial text, I started to stumble on other questions. Why didn’t any characters leave Europe? Why does Safie adopt the cottagers language rather than teach them hers? I will evaluate the postcolonial frame that Shelley introduces even through Victor Frankenstein’s education (Ingolstadt, for one) in contrast to the monster who is educated through observation. What is being exploited and how is this put into context in how the story is set up?

Looking at words and the frequency of them in the characters’ interactions will allow me to create a foundation of evidence for how Victor and the creature treat others. There is a western approach in how they move towards this encapsulation of language. The subplots are the main focus of this research as they are key points where the two encounter sub-characters and attempt to establish power through language. How does this speak to the larger context of European conquest and exploration of other cultures (540)?


Some of the sources I am working on:

Christie, William. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Critical and Cultural Heritage.” The Two Romanticisms and Other Essays: Mystery and Interpretation in Romantic Literature, Sydney University Press, AUSTRALIA, 2016, pp. 231–268. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1d10h2h.14.

DIX, HYWEL ROWLAND. “Postcolonial Britain.” After Raymond Williams: Cultural Materialism and the Break-Up of Britain, 2nd ed., University of Wales Press, 2013, pp. 111–142. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qhdnr.11.

Ransom, Amy J. “Mary Shelley’s ‘Hideous Progeny.’” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, 2010, pp. 314–316. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25746415.

SUDAN, RAJANI. “Fair Exotics: Two Case Histories in Frankenstein and Villette.” Fair Exotics: Xenophobic Subjects in English Literature, 1720-1850, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002, pp. 117–147. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fj36r.7.

Digital Tools in Teaching Literature.

This proposal would be an outline for my research on developing new methods for teaching freshmen students the basics in literature. The syllabus covers classic novels. Students must choose one novel to focus on during the semester and they must follow the teacher’s sample. For example, I chose Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The project is based on a digital mapping of the book. This map identifies the main character, themes, writing style, and the author’s biography. The highlight of this course is to cover the literature in periods of time like Victorian, Romanticism, or Renaissance eras. Covering essential arts during these eras with historical and social influences can be overwhelming for first year college students. Therefore, the visibility of themes in many novels presented by maps makes analysis understandable. Also, students get a better understanding of the specific terms from the assigned novels that the course aims to convey. Students may notice at the end of their graphs the common themes, motifs, and the metaphoric language which concludes the purpose of this course. Students will closely read their novel to analyze the biography of the writer, the characters in the novel, the thematic proposals, and the symbolic images. They are expected to find these elements and digitally place them in their maps. In the Frankenstein example, the student will explain the novel and discuss with the rest of the class why Shelley made two versions of Frankenstein and her other decisions. Students can examine the social, historical, and economical interactions that toned Frankenstein. John A. Walsh, in his article Multimedia and Multitasking: A Survey of Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies, says “When studying a work of digital literature, as with any cultural artifact, we must choose where to focus our attention.”  The outcome of this specific map is to show a novel on one screen. It goes beyond the novel to discuss the ideas of it and approach the literary aspects that develops a clear visualization of intangible themes of that Romanticism era.

In Frankenstein, as Shelley picks up the Romantic language style in science fiction, she maintains the biblical traditions and social concerns by quoting Paradise Lost. Even though it is not explicitly stated in the course goals, linking the literature period acts as a platform in studying literature. In reading novels, the reader draws an imaginary graph in his or her mind. This graph links the character in the novel to their actions and links the novel with the author’s life to the surrounding world. This psychologic process allows the reader to imagine the novel and its history, yet with advanced technology today, this can be drawn into reality as a tree or map. By using these tools, students can express their visualization of novels and transfer their thoughts to practical arguments. There is no doubt that these graphs can be debated for their vagueness. However, using digital tools to graph these novels has overcome this issue. Creating digital graphs about a novel where the student can insert website links, explanatory notes, and related topics presents the novel perfectly. Tools such as MindView, TimeLine, and Ngram Viewer are new ways that benefit not only the literature course but digital humanities as a whole. In reading the two editions of Frankenstein, students will begin with comparing the digital version verses the paper copy one. This process can be time consuming, but surprisingly it is the opposite. In fact, students can learn about a number of novels and achieve the goal of the course faster. Due to the simplicity and efficiency of digital tools, students can calculate the language and locate information with primary tools for the course clearly. In the beginning, MindView can be used as a tool where students will learn how to build a digital map of Frankenstein. They can use Ngram to make a clear comparison of the 1818 and 1831 editions and the changes that Shelley took. Also, they can use TimeLine to identify setting and how the changes affect the reading of the text. Towards the end of the course, students can download MapView as a PDF to outline their thesis paper as well as a PowerPoint copy to present to their class. By using these three tools, students can enhance their understanding of the course. Therefore, this will enhance their creativity in writings as well. In conclusion, technology would be beneficial for humanities studies because it would make literature more engaging and interesting to learn.


Moretti, Franco. “Patterns and Interpretation.” Literary Lab Pamphlet, Sept. 2015, doi:ISSN 2164-1757.

Damian-Grint, Peter, Eighteenth-Century Literature in English and Other languages: Image, Text, and Hyertext. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.


Saltz, David Z, Multimedia and Multitasking: A Survey of Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.


Saltz, David Z, Digital Literary Studies: Performance and Interaction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.


Wittern, Christian, Character Encoding. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.