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Frankenstein Part II: Crash Course Literature 206 - The Good Men Project

—In which John Green continues to teach you about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. You’ll learn about romantic vs Romantic, the latter of which is a literary movement. John will also look at a few different critical readings of Frankenstein, and you’ll learn about Victor’s motivations. We’ll also look a little bit at the moral limitations of science, if there are any.

—[embedded content]

[embedded content]— Transcript Provided by YouTube:

00:00Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course Literature, and today we continue our discussion00:04of “Frankenstein”. Oh, Me From the Past didn’t even come to00:07school today. Isn’t that fantastic? Well we’re going to learn something without him.00:11Last time we talked a little bit about the Romantics, “Frankenstein” is often cited00:14as the definitive Romantic novel, but ehh… let’s get a little bit deeper into it.00:17Capital “R” Romantics don’t have a lot to do with lower case ‘r’ romantics, unless00:21your idea of romance involves like ecstatic descriptions of nature and a revolutionary00:26spirit that often ends in bloodshed. And if that’s your idea of romance, don’t00:30put it in your OK Cupid profile. However, pro tip, do say that you’re 6’3”.00:34Knowing more about the capital “R” Romantics will help you be better at lower case “r” romance so stick with me here.00:40[Theme Music]00:49So Romanticism was a movement originating in the late 18th century and it’s typically00:53understood as a reaction against both the Industrial Revolution’s devaluing of the00:58individual human spirit and embracing of like the soulless assembly line. And also the Enlightenment’s01:04claims of scientific certainty. Romanticism prizes intuition over rationalism,01:08and nature and wildness over classical harmony, and emotions—especially difficult emotions01:14like horror and awe and terror and passion—are preferred over intellect.01:19And there’s an emphasis on the unconscious and irrational part of humans. There’s a01:23lot of talk of dreams and stuff. So is “Frankenstein” a Romantic novel?01:26Well, if you take a course in Romantic lit in college then you will almost definitely01:30read it. So, yes. “Frankenstein” is interested in difficult,01:33uncomfortable emotions the wonder and awe and horror of encountering the radically other.01:39And it’s certainly in many ways also a response to the Enlightenment’s emphasis on scientific rationality.01:45I mean people at the time really thought that we would eventually be able to01:48reanimate the dead and other people were rightly troubled by that.01:51Then again, you can also read the book as a critique — and a pretty stern one —01:56of the kind of thinking and acting that Romanticism encourages, right?01:59I mean Romanticism preaches a radical self-involvement that privileges the individual’s pursuit02:04of knowledge and glory but for all of Victor and Walton’s encountering nature and going02:09with their gut it’s pretty disastrous. . Another popular reading is to interpret “Frankenstein”02:14autobiographically, a reading that was encouraged via 1970s feminist criticism of the novel.02:19Earlier readings along these lines situates “Frankenstein” as a tale of monstrous02:23birth and look to Mary Shelley’s own experiences with birth, which were pretty terrible..02:28I mean Mary Shelley’s mother died while giving birth to her and Mary and Percy’s02:32own first child, a daughter, died when she was just a few weeks old.02:36And in her journal, Mary recounted an incredibly sad dream about this daughter: “Dream that02:41my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold & that we rubbed it before02:46the fire & it lived.” So, of course, the idea of bringing the dead02:49back to life had occurred to her even before she listened in on Percy Shelley and Byron02:53discussing new developments in electricity. Mary Shelley even refers to the book itself02:57as a child. In her intro to the 1831 edition, she wrote, “I bid my hideous progeny go03:03forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days.”03:08That’s a very tempting reading, but it’s also really literal and reductive.03:12First off, and I’m saying this partly defensively as a novelist, novelist don’t write exclusively03:17from their own experience. More importantly, I’m not at all convinced03:20that making an author the central character of a novel is a particularly helpful way to03:24read it. So if you read “Frankenstein” as merely03:26as Mary Shelley working out her own personal issues you miss the great and terrible questions03:30at the center of the book. The questions that really can change you.03:34There’s in fact a term for trying to do this kind of reading—“intentional fallacy”—in03:38which we believe we can know exactly what the author was thinking when they wrote a03:42book. But putting aside those biographical readings03:44there are still some pretty interesting feminist critiques of “Frankenstein.”03:47For instance, the novel clearly shows what harm comes to women (and families and relationships)03:52when men pursue single-minded goals. In fact, thanks to Victor’s lack of work-life03:57balance, pretty much all the women in this novel die. I mean Victor’s creation of the04:01monster leads to the hanging of the servant Justine, the murder of Victor’s bride Elizabeth04:06on their wedding night. And occasionally in the novel Mary Shelley04:09refers to nature itself as female, suggesting that Victor is violating it, as when Victor04:14discusses how with “unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.”04:21I mean you can say I’m reading sex into that if you want but “unrelaxed and breathless04:25eagerness.”? And there are also plenty of suggestions that04:27Victor might not like women very much. The creature says that he will leave Victor and04:32all mankind alone forever if Victor just creates a mate for him and Victor begins work, but04:38then he gets freaked out over what it will mean to create a lady monster.04:42Now admittedly that’s partly because it might mean monster progeny but just look at04:45the text, “She might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate,” thinks04:51Victor, “and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness.”04:56He worries, “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence05:01of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror.”05:05So Victor destroys the female creature while the monster watches. He recalls, how “trembling05:10with passion, [I] tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged.”05:15I don’t think I’m being too weird to point out the sexy stuff there: “trembling with05:19passion.” Anyway, Victor claims to love his cousin, Elizabeth, but he deserts her05:24for years at a time and even though the creature says—really, really, really clearly—“I05:29will be with you on your wedding-night,” he leaves her alone on his wedding night.05:34Now we can all wonder why Mary Shelley didn’t create any strong female characters here and05:38instead a collection of suffering, passive, doomed ones, but we can certainly read the05:43novel as an exploration of what happens when men fear, distrust, or devalue women so much05:49that they attempt to reproduce without them. I mean in some ways Victor is trying to bypass05:54the feminine altogether. He’s creating life without recourse to egg or womb. Now you could05:59counter this by saying that Mary Shelley’s original Creator—God—did the same thing.06:04But that’s precisely the point. Victor is not God.06:07And perhaps this is where “Frankenstein” is still most relevant, in its discussion06:11of “playing God,” of the single-minded pursuit of science without an accompanying06:16concern about you know, morality. Now, obviously, the experiments that Victor06:20undertakes are extreme, but Mary Shelley was basing them on some of the scientific debates06:25and discoveries of her day. And even if the book is largely science fiction, there’s06:29a certain amount of scientific fact in it, and a lot of scientific questioning.06:34And part of why this book has survived is because the questions she was asking were06:37important in her day, but they’re also pretty important now.06:40I mean there was a recent book on genetic modifications in animals called “Frankenstein’s06:44Cat”, those who object to GMO foods often label them Frankenfoods, which only makes06:49them sound like Franken-berry cereal – which is delicious!06:52So Mary Shelley was influenced… oh… it must be time for The Open Letter.06:55Oh look, it’s Frankenstein’s monster. No, wait, it’s the Hulk. It actually occurs06:59to me that they’re quite similar. Both monsters created by failed scientific07:02experiments who only really become monstrous when they’re rejected by society.07:06Anyway, an Open Letter to scientists: Dear Scientists, here’s a little rule of thumb.07:11Anytime you’re doing any kind of experiment, ask yourself the question, “Could this create07:14a monster?” Even if the chances are relatively low, I’m going to advise against that experiment,07:19because what I have seen from the movies and from books is that if it can become a monster it will!07:25But I will say scientists that I think you’ve been a bit unfairly maligned by poor readings of “Frankenstein.”07:30Frankenstein is not like the Hulk because his story isn’t, at least not simply, about07:34about science run amok. It’s an oversimplification scientists.07:37You are doing good work with you lab coats and your chemicals and I thank you. Don’t turn07:42anyone into a monster. Best wishes, John Green. Right, but anyway, Mary Shelley was influenced07:46by several scientists, but chief among them Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles, and07:51Luigi Galvani. Darwin published a long poem called “The07:54Temple of Nature,” because back then poetry was a totally reasonable way to share scientific07:59ideas. He had an idea that life—at least on the08:01microscopic level—could be restored to seemingly dead matter or created out of inert matter,08:08a phenomenon he called “spontaneous generation.”08:10And Galvani, became famous for conducting experiments with electricity, in which he08:14showed that electrical impulses could animate the muscles of dead creatures like the legs08:19of a deceased frog. Did you get it? “.. conducting experiments08:23in electricity”, anyone? Conducting electricity? No? OK.08:27Galvani’s followers did even more macabre experiments, like in 1803 test in which several08:32scientists attached electrodes to the body of an executed murderer in the hope of restoring08:37it to life. Because they were like, “Oh, man. Who should08:39we bring back from the dead? I know, a murderer!” Anyway, they,of course, didn’t succeed,08:44but they did succeed in making a few of the murder’s muscles convulse.08:48These experiments clearly influence Victor’s attempt to reanimate dead flesh and in fact08:52Victor’s experiments weren’t that much radical than ones that were actually happening08:57at the time. That said, the novel itself is clearly pretty08:59skeptical about these pursuits. I mean even before he animates the monster, it’s clear09:04that his studies are exacting a tremendous toll on Victor’s health, and his well being,09:09also that of his friends and family. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.09:12Victor describes how “My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become09:17emaciated with confinement,” which is a pretty good passage to show your parents when09:21they’re pushing you to go pre-med. And things only went downhill once he began09:25to assemble the creature. Victor, “dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or09:31tortured the living animal…collected bones from charnel-houses; and disturbed, with profane09:36fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame,”09:40But Victor thinks that this digging around in slaughterhouses and graveyards will be09:43worth it; he says “I might in process of time…renew life where death had apparently09:48devoted the body to corruption.” And that’s an amazing and laudable goal (unless you’ve09:53ever seen any zombie movie ever, in which case you would know that it’s a TERRIBLE09:57idea). But in that same passage, Victor says that10:00the creatures he makes “would bless me as its creator and source…. No father could10:04claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.”10:09So it’s clear that his desire is actually selfish and that he’s pursuing this knowledge10:13not for universal good, or so that the dead may live again, but for his own gratification.10:18And then of course there’s his reaction when his experiment does succeed. I mean,10:21even though he’s assembled every facet of the creature and made him huge on purpose10:25so that all these fiddly bits like veins and eyelashes will be easier to work with, he10:30responds to his creature with utter horror. And what is Victor’s mature, responsible,10:35heroic reaction to this situation? He runs away, making all the dads on “Teen Mom”10:40look amazing by comparison. Thanks Thought Bubble10:43So, the monster blames this initial abandonment for all the murders that result, right?10:48And Percy Shelley agreed, writing that while the creature was initially affectionate and10:52moral “the circumstances of his existence were so monstrous and uncommon, that… his10:57original goodness was gradually turned into the fuel of an inextinguishable misanthropy11:02and revenge.” But is the tragedy inherent in the creation11:05of the monster or is there a way to pursue knowledge without responding in horror?11:09Frankenstein is more than a little relevant today as we struggle to figure out where technologies11:14like stem cell therapy, or genetically modified foods, or cloning land on the ethical and11:19moral scales of the social order. The pursuit of knowledge is good, right, because11:23that’s how I’m even able to talk to you through like the magic of the Internet. That’s11:27why we aren’t hunger/gathers anymore. But we don’t actually know the outcome yet.11:30Sometimes we forget that we’re still in the middle of history.11:33I don’t think Mary Shelley condemned science outright, or explicitly discourages learning11:38the secrets of life and nature. Now the experiment definitely fails. The question11:42is why? Is it because Victor’s aims are just unnatural11:45and evil? Is it because he can’t love the creature he’s created? Or is it because11:49he let’s his ego run amok dictate his motivations? That’s a non-rhetorical question by the11:54way. I look forward to reading your answers in comments. Thank you for watching. I’ll11:57see you next week. Crash Course is made by all of these nice12:00people and it’s possible because of your contributions at Subbable.com.12:04We want to say thank to all of our Subbable subscribers for keeping Crash Course free12:08for everyone forever. If you want to subscribe you can do so over12:10at Subbable.com. There are also great perks there. Thank you again for watching and as12:14we say in my hometown, “Don’t forget to be awesome!”

—This post was previously published on YouTube.

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The Best Damn Cortisol Article Ever 2019-08-05 08:00:00It's been called the stress hormone, the belly fat hormone, and the thief of gains. But it doesn't have to be any of those. Here's how to control i

Tip: Do You HAVE to Count Calories? 2019-08-05 07:00:00Maybe not, but you have to be very aware of your SHMEC. Here's what that means.

Tip: The Coffee for Lifters Only 2019-08-04 07:00:00It tastes amazing, it fuels muscle growth, and it makes your overworked joints feel better. Here's how to whip up a steaming cup.

Tip: You've Gotta Try This New Leg Exercise 2019-08-03 07:00:00Unlike conventional hack squats, this landmine version allows you to find the perfect groove for your joints. Check it out.

The New Big 3 for Non-Powerlifters 2019-08-02 08:00:00Unless you're a powerlifter, stop with the emphasis on bench, squats, and barbell deadlifts. There are better masters to serve. Here they are.

Tip: Alkaline Water Doesn't Completely Suck 2019-08-02 07:00:00The ads for alkaline water say it'll cure everything. It can't, but there's at least a grain of truth behind it.

More Gains in Less Time: 5 Pro Tips 2019-08-01 08:00:00These strategies will allow you to make greater gains by doing more work in the gym in a given amount of time.

Tip: Master the Pendulum Pull-Up 2019-08-01 07:00:00Build your upper back with a twist on this classic bodyweight exercise.

The 6 Mandatory Angles for a Big Back 2019-07-31 08:00:00The back does way more than you think, and you're probably not challenging it optimally for growth. Add these exercises.

Tip: Is Your Tracker Making You Fat? 2019-07-31 07:00:00Maybe. Why? Because they're pretty terrible at tracking how many calories you burn. Here's the scoop.

Stubborn Delts: The High Tension Solution 2019-07-29 08:00:00Got puny shoulders? Here's why, plus four smart exercises to get them growing.

Tip: How to Get Better Results with Chin-Ups 2019-07-29 07:00:00Make this change and you'll build bigger biceps and lats. Oh, and your joints will feel better.

FieldandStream.com

Three Things to Look for in a Collapsible 2019-08-06 21:00:00Collapsible water bottles save money and reduce the amount of plastic you contribute to the ecosystem. Look for one that has good insulation, collapse

Three Reasons a Privacy Tent Is Right For 2019-08-06 21:00:00Privacy tents differ not only in cost but in features and ideal function. Some have solid roofs, which are ideal for use as a dry shelter for a portab

Four Things to Look for In Your Next 2019-08-06 21:00:00Whether you want to store sweaters in moth balls or haul all of your college students’ stuff off to the dorm this fall, good storage bins with l

Best Kinds of Water Jugs 2019-08-06 20:57:00Most health authorities agree that the average person needs to drink eight 8-ounce glasses (roughly 2 liters, or half a gallon) of water a day. Multip

Three Options to Consider When Choosing a Collapsible 2019-08-06 20:55:00Collapsible water jugs are the way to go if you want to save space when packing for your next camping trip, store water quickly in an emergency, or he

Three Things to Consider Before Buying Your Next 2019-08-06 20:50:00There’s more to choosing a bucket than just size. What are you going to haul with it? Do you need to worry about corrosion from water or cleanin

Anti-Public-Lands Advocate Now in Charge of 250 Million 2019-08-06 15:35:18Lawyer and outspoken supporter of the sale of federal public land, William Perry Pendley, has recently been appointed the acting director of the BLM.

“Why Can’t We Leave This One Small Place 2019-08-06 14:00:00Yukon Dispatch: The uncertain future of the Porcupine River caribou herd

Three Things You Need to Know Before You 2019-08-05 20:10:00Kindling varies in size, combustibility, and burn time. Fatwood kindling catches fire easily and burns quickly. Standard kindling is simply small, dry

Three Things to Know Before You Buy a 2019-08-05 20:10:00A portable shower can make an outdoor trip much more pleasant, for you and for everyone involved. Here’s how to choose the right one for you.

9 Key Questions to Ask Before Signing a 2019-08-05 16:49:07There’s a lot to be said for joining a hunting lease or starting one on your own. Here are nine questions you should ask before you sign the dot

Why New Zealand is the New Wild West 2019-08-05 14:00:29Plan a waterfowl adventure of a lifetime down under.

Men's Journal Latest Health

The Truth About Red Wine’s Ability to Lower 2019-08-01 15:27:39If your favorite way to unwind at the end of the week (or, let’s face it, day) is a glass of red wine, there’s some new evidence that sugg

Why Exercising at Night Is Extra Hard 2019-07-31 15:13:37Work was particularly rough, and you’re at the gym to blow off steam. Building up a sweat relieves stress, after all. But the workout is tougher

Stem Cell Treatment Could Cure Baldness in the 2019-07-30 15:03:56Although haircare companies might tell you otherwise, there’s no silver bullet cure for thinning hair. Whether it’s tried-and-true remedie

Eating Between These Hours Can Help You Lose 2019-07-29 16:04:41If you’re looking to lose weight, new research shows that timing is everything. That’s because harnessing the power of your circadian rhyt

This Top-Rated Outdoor Water Filter Is Under $20 2019-07-25 19:30:47

Fish Oil Supplements Might Help Your Post-Workout Soreness 2019-07-25 16:22:45To reduce post-workout soreness, try fish oil supplements. They contain two omega-3 fatty acids that seem to ease the ache, suggests research from Hos

It’s Not Too Late to Get in Shape 2019-07-25 09:56:20If you were big into sports in your youth and fitness is still a huge part of your life, good on you. However, if you were an indoor kid, or if your a

How to Get Out of the Pool and 2019-07-24 11:29:26Sure, splashing around in the pool is fun, but nothing beats the thrill of open-water swimming. Whether it’s in the ocean, in a lake, or against

Here’s How High Your SPF Should Be This 2019-07-23 13:37:46While lathering up with SPF is an easy and important task, there’s a lot about the process that is difficult to comprehend. For starters, what d

Can BBQ Make You Binge Drink? It’s More 2019-07-22 11:27:19Before cracking open another beer at the next backyard bash, some sobering news: Those ribs could cause you to binge drink. Animal research from Penn

Can You Drink Yourself to Sleep? (No, Not 2019-07-18 14:10:31Put down the bourbon, that’s not what this is about. Drinks that claim to induce sleep—besides, you know, a night cap—are popping up

Can Supplements and Multivitamins Really Help Your Heart? 2019-07-17 13:31:40The alphabet soup of multivitamins and supplements loaded on drugstore shelves is overwhelming. The sheer number of options can have a toppling effect


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