Blog Post 10

For the draft due in class Monday, I expanded my proposal and had a draft of about four pages with a strong outline for the rest of the paper.  I began selecting still images to use in my presentation.  Yes, there’s a long way to go before submitting a final paper I’m proud of, but I feel confident given the adjustments Professor Frank has made to our schedule and the extensive time she’s given us during finals weeks to work on it.  My focus between now and Monday, when I’ll give my in class presentation, is to, well, focus on the presentation.


From a 20 minute oral presentation on 8 pages of writing I gave at a conference a couple weekends ago, I know the time we’re given is not a lot.  As I’m planning to show images, I need to allow time for transitions between slides and explanation.  After consulting with my co-panelist, Drew, I think I’m going to provide an overview of the themes I’m analyzing rather than focusing on an individual section:

  • introduce adaptations of Alice to get audience thinking about their preconceived notions
  • quickly narrow to Tim Burton’s film adaptation
  • highlight differences between text and film
  • examine differences between Carroll’s 7 year old Alice and Burton’s 19 year old Alice

After preparing and practicing my presentation, I’ll make adjustments and decisions on what I can cut (not worried about being unable to fill time).  From there, I’ll take class suggestions/questions into account and alter my presentation for the symposium (written before update to schedule) while continuing to work on my paper.


Other tasks: I need to locate a specific source on the function of film adaptations.  What do films do that texts can’t? I also just received notice that a book I requested on Alice adaptations just came in, so I’m looking forward to being able to supplement my other sources/info with that.

Blog Post 9

Blog Post 9


Read “‘Kidlit’ as ‘Law-And-Lit’: Harry Potter and the Scales of Justice” by William P. MacNeil

Choose a complex passage or idea to read closely and actively:

  • What is it saying generally?
  • What specific phrases or ideas do you need to focus on?
  • How does it connect to surrounding passages, or to the broader point of the essay?
  • What interpretive questions does it raise for you?
  • How would you present “the work” of this passage to another reader?

Male house elves are from Mars, female house elves are from Venus?  The text seems to cock a satirical snook at the current “battle of the sexes” in exchanges like these, but may also point to a more serious proposition, long maintained by critical legal feminists:16 that what may work for men — contract, autonomy, rights — may not even speak to, let alone address women’s concerns for connection, community and context, and, often, will result in a juridico-political “silencing,” even more final and forceful than the one Winky “keeps,” as a good house elf, over her master’s secrets (p. 467). So the narrative airs, here, a wider “hermeneutics of suspicion,” rife  in, and bedeviling critical legal circles, that rights discourse, and indeed the law itself, might be  highly problematic strategies for change: something that “you can’t live with, and can’t live without.” Specifically, how do you change a system’s status inequities — its gender, race and class “intersections”17 through the very instrument of those inequities, namely the law? Or to reformulate the question in terms of agency rather than structure: how do you name someone as  a legal subject  —  that is,  the bearer of rights — without negating her through the “lack” that the law installs in its severance of feudalism’s ties?18In short, is the law a symptom or a solution? a hindrance or a help? a friend or a foe? That seems to be the philosophical  anxiety driving the novel’s very ambiguous representation of rights, and, perforce, the law.


MacNeil comments on a distinction between male and female house elves he witnesses in Harry Potter.  This passage takes a feminist approach through analyzing inequities women face.  The previous passage notes the difficulty of assuming elves’ gender based on physical appearance alone.  It’s Winky’s voice, which women are often denied, that genders her when compared to Dobby’s.  MacNeil situates the feminist approach within the broader context of the article by focusing on law.  Of course law favors men – it has historically and still does in many contemporary settings.  More specifically it favors whitemen.  I question, however, from where MacNeil concludes that women seek connection and community (not that they don’t, but I’m not sure I see the evidence).  The inadequacies of the law, as MacNeil suggests, make it susceptible as a mechanism of change.  A radical approach (like one Angela Davis dreams of) is the only solution; I believe Marxist critics would agree.  Law appears to create more questions than answers.  The questions MacNeil raises do lead to “philosophical anxiety,” as the law is supposed to be self-evident.  If it’s not the agency we desire, how do we change it?

Blog Post 8 – Discovering the Archive

I’ve had a lot of prior exposure to the MWWC and have been fortunate to visit the collection in Portland twice. I examined several artifacts I found in a folder titled “Sex Discrimination, U.S. / Employment Opportunity / Commission [March 1972].” The first pamphlet was about “Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex” from the US Equal Opportunity Commission in 1972. Many of the guidelines are modern in that we still abide by them today.  This is largely a good thing as emphasis on equality between men and women in the workplace is evident – at least on paper.  Policy on maternity leave has slightly, if at all, changed which is discouraging.

I think these pamphlets could be used as a primary source to analyze literature to through a cultural critical lens.  Were representations of the women in the workforce in 1970s US literature factual?  What other representations of women in the workforce existed?  Were laws always abided by or were there common loopholes?  Education rates of men and women are also examined  which could lead into an interesting project on education.                                                                                                                                                      

Blog Post 7

Post blog entry #7: Compare O’Connor’s reading of the play to your own and assess its uses and limits. What is useful about her analysis that you would forward (and how)? What are some of its limits, in your view, and how would you counter them? You might also consider how Parks herself forwards or counters Hawthorne’s representation of Hester’s story (especially in light of what Korobkin feminist reading teaches us).  Since we’re practicing the “countering” move, you’ll want to spend comparatively more time discussing the ways you’d redirect the analysis.

O’Connor effectively contextualizes In the Blood withThe Scarlet Letter.  She writes in depth about the economy and privileged groups in society that are structures to keep marginalized people down.  I think O’Connor’s work effectively shows how a rereading, or rewriting, of a text can answer questions the original volume doesn’t address.  I personally think In the Bloodeffectively forwards Hawthorne’s work.  The Scarlet Letter gives Parks a voice of authority and is what allow her work to be effective, and likely better well received.  In the Blood addresses race in a way The Scarlet Letter does not, or rather simply can’t.  I think Parks’ work takes Hawthorne’s into the twenty first century and put a contemporary feminist lens on it.  Critics like Nina Baym (who I’m working with for my midterm) have tried to argue for Hawthorne’s feminism.  However, African Americans aren’t present in The Scarlet Letter.  Intersecting race, class, and gender are essential to modern feminism.  I think Parks voice could be better received than Hawthorne’s because it is so contemporary.  Not everyone appreciated the canon and Parks’ work definitely challenges it.

Post 6

Prompt: Search the MLA Bibliography and locate three essays, book chapters, or monographs (single-author books) that you might use as the basis for your mid-term essay. What are their respective projects? What about each particularly interests you? Which are you most likely to choose and why?


Before searching the MLA Bibliography, I knew I wanted to focus on Frankenstein or The Scarlet Letter.  I agree Heart and Science was useful in a cultural critical sense, but I don’t want to spend the semester writing about a book that “almost no one has ever thought…is a good novel” (Otis 37).  I also knew I wanted to find a secondary source related to environmental studies or women’s and gender studies – my minors.  I searched for the primary text’s name (Frankensteinor The Scarlet Letter)with a breadth of terms (ecocriticism, ecofeminism, environment, outdoor, nature, feminism, feminist, gender, women, and romanticism) and, by the time I limited the date range to the last 15 years, generated few results.


The three essays I identified are:

  1. Inuit Diasporas: Frankensteinand the Inuit in England by Karen Piper
  2. Refusal to Tell: Withholding Heroines in Hawthorne, Wharton, and Coetzee by Elizabeth Alsop
  3. Hawthorne’s Pearl: Woman-Child of the Future by Cindy Lou Daniels


“Inuit Diasporas” illuminates an absent discourse about indigenous people in Frankenstein.  In my directed study under Professor McHugh of her “Postcolonial Ecocriticism of the Sea” course,  I have viewed Inuit films and am completing a research project on one.  Inuit and their culture and history do interest me, but I’m not sure about taking on a postcolonial project when I’m already taking an advanced course devoted to postcolonial literary theory.


“Refusal to Tell” argues “Hester’s silence is not simply a show of willfulness, of ‘hardness and obstinacy,’ but a deliberate strategy, one which might yield the very results of ‘temping’ or ‘compelling’” (Alsop 85).  Alsop essentially shows that Hester’s silence is a power move, unlike one of submissiveness that many critics argue.  This essay synthesizes works by Wharton and Coetzee as well. I’m unsure about working with it, as comparison between works constitutes a large portion of the essay.


“Hawthorne’s Pearl” intrigues me most.  Many critics define Pearl as “the sinchild” and are “too quick to dismiss Pearl’s integral role in the text” (Daniels 221, 222).  Daniels argues “Pearl is the representation of the beginning of the future for all women” (Daniels 235).  We did not discuss Pearl in class, and I questioned to what extent she is good or bad while reading.  This could be an interesting lead into a final project.  I’m sure there’s an argument for how Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a “woman-child.”   

Post 5

Blog Post 5: Open Topic


This was my first reading of The Scarlet Letter, and my only prior exposure to Hawthorne was his short story “Young Goodman Brown” in Professor Tuttle’s American Lit. 1 course.  Puritan history has, frankly, bored me.  The strict moral code and intersection of church and state opposes the dream (it’s still a dream) of modern American society and some of my research interests like counterculture literature (e.g. Beat-nik writing).  However, I knew we were reading The Scarlet Letterthrough a feminist lens which, as a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, definitely interested me.  I tried to approach the text with an open mind.  After reading, I can say I have positive sentiments towards The Scarlet Letter!  It’s clear why the novel was a banned book, and though Hawthorne writes roughly 200 years after the Puritan settlement, his views are progressive and still, like most all canonical works, relevant today. I was unaware that the meaning of the A shifts from the beginning to end of the novel.  “Adulteress” to “able” could be an interesting theme to write a paper on, but I’m sure it’s been done before. Hester’s society forces her to wear the scarlet letter.  This is an example of a society attempting to define individuals instead of letting individuals define themselves.  I can connect this to modern day societies and their sentiments towards gender. Many people are more concerned with what a person’s genitals are than respecting what gender they choose to identify as.

Post 4

Post blog entry #4: Briefly describe Murphy’s project and then discuss one specific way you might forward her analysis.

In Sarah Murphy’s project, Heart, Science, and Regulation: Victorian Antivivisection Discourse and the Human, she seeks to examine the intersections of law and literature (and science!) through late 19thcentury English discourse on vivisection.  She discusses the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876 and uses Wilkie Collins’ novel Heart and Science as a lens of analysis.  Heart and Science effectively portrays the antivivisection debate.  It is a perfect work to analyze through a cultural critical lens, as it mirrors society. Murphy examines the human centered, or anthropocentric, view of scientists, as they set human lives above those of animals. She takes the conversation beyond the scientific community and connects it to whole cultures.

“Benjulia is marked as vaguely foreign and even monstrous in his appearance” (Murphy 377).  He is not unlike Frankenstein’s Creature, and this idea can be forwarded.  If the vivisection debate had occurred at the beginning of the 19thcentury,Frankenstein would be a text cultural critics would turn to.  The Creature is composed of pieces, like putting vivisected parts back together.  One might question whether the Creature embodies wanton or habitual cruelty, as Murphy makes such a distinction when she discusses pro-vivisection scientists. Murphy compares and contrasts humans and animals.  Is the Creature a human or is he an animal?  The vivisection debate brings up the philosophical question, “What is human?” when compared to Murphy’s article.

Post 3

Annotate Otis’ essay following guidelines in the annotation assignment.  Use your notes to write a response that incorporates textual evidence from the novel, primary materials from the appendix, and/or Otis’s analysis.


Otis analyzes Heart and Science’s important cultural context in her essay.  To complete the annotation assignment, active reading was required, but I also found the essay interesting.  The assignment helped me reflect on my strengths and weaknesses regarding active reading.

Instead of summarizing every paragraph in my own words, I frequently underline words, phrases, or sentences that help me identify what the paragraph is about when I return to the text; I summarize only when a section is particularly challenging or if the author lists, like in the first full paragraph on pg. 29 where Otis explains Ferrier’s experimental methods.



I frequently make “Personal Interest” notes that fall under the “Connections” category.  Otis introduces women’s role in the vivisection debate on pg. 32, and, in addition to underlining, I made several notes on how I could analyze her argument through a feminist lens.  I also often make personal interest notes I’ll probably never use when writing literary analyses but that I simply find interesting or that spark an emotion in me. This type of note funnels down to my primary passion for English and why I chose to pursue the subject in the first place.



Otis’ essay sparked a couple text-to-text notes from me. The vivisection debate surfaced in Dr. Susan McHugh’s “Dog Stories” course.  We read Mikhail Bulgakov’s Russian novella, Heart of a Dog (1925), and Nick Abadzis’ British graphic novel, Laika(2007) (which albeit dealt more with animal experimentation than vivisection specifically).  The mad scientist motif, manifested by Dr. Benjulia, directly corresponds to Frankenstein, hence the two texts’ pairing in “Methods.”

Otis uses Heart and Science (1883) and The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) to create a dichotomy between anti-vivisection and (cautiously) pro-vivisection 19thcentury English literature.  I question this binary.  I am curious to know what other late 19thcentury English texts tackle the vivisection debate and how they add to the narrative.  How would adding a Russian text, like Bulgakov’s, alter Otis’ argument?  From Farmer’s appendices, we know Lewis Carroll was an anti-vivisectionist and that Robert Browning composed anti-vivisection poetry, so other late 19thcentury English evidence for literature’s role in vivisection debate exists.

Post 2

Prompt – Allen Smith’s essay is explicitly concerned with the “terms of contemporaneous racial discourse” (564) that he holds should inform our reading of Victor but which have not factored in some of the novel’s most recent criticism. What have been the dominant terms of those other readings? How does Smith change or add to them to make them part of his “project.” What questions does his project raise for you? Be sure to incorporate specific passages from the essay when responding. What connections might you make between Allen’s work and Angela Davis’s talk?

Readings of Frankensteinhave been concerned with “feminism or the rights of women, female anxieties about authorship…or radical discourse on the Rights of Man” (547).  Smith examines “how Frankenstein can be related to contemporary discourses on race, slavery and antislavery” (549).  Smith’s section “Monstrousness” is of interest to me, as I still analyze texts through the “Victorian Monsters” lens.  I read The Tempest as a senior in high school, and it’s one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.  The figure of Caliban stands out, for, in my opinion, he parallels the Creature more than Milton’s Eve, especially when viewed through form alone.  This section does raise a couple questions for me. The Creature’s figure is so abhorrent no one can stand to look at him.  This is not the case of Caliban.  Also, it’s worth investigating why Shelley chooses to have Victor compose the Creature of parts rather than reanimate a whole dead body.  Frankensteinis still a work of fiction meant to entertain readers.  Reanimating an entire body would have been too simple.

Smith also examines the Creature though the master/slave relationship and denial of sexuality that slaves experienced.  I question the Creature’s identity as a slave.  Victor wishes he wasn’t the Creature’s master.  Smith acknowledges that the “self-assertion of the Creature, his coming to consciousness of the power relations between himself and Frankenstein, makes him the more autonomous of the two” (559).  So is Victor slave to the Creature? Overall, I think Smith’s analysis is valid and strengthens the body of Frankenstein criticism.  He does important cultural work, as contemporary criticism hasn’t fully accounted for a postcolonial perspective.

Post 1

When I first read Frankenstein, it was for Professor Frank’s “Victorian Monsters” class.  Working on a semester-long mapping project, I paid special attention to the characters’ geographical movement.  I did not encounter critical analysis of geography in Smith’s “History” which surprised me, for I did such analysis in a 400-level course.  A postcolonial critical reading would be comparable to a geographic critical reading, I believe, as Clerval’s desire to travel to India, for example, nods to Orientalism and Britain’s mode of conquest that characterized the 1800s (would Frankenstein have been published too early for this to make sense?).

Romanticism is one of my favorite literary movements, so I’ve also analyzed the text through that lens since my first reading.  Elements of nature are a critical component of Romantic literature, though I struggle to analyze Frankensteinthrough an environmental lens.  Modern notions of the biodiversity crisis or climate change don’t jump out at me. Rich descriptions of cities and landscapes are present, adherent to Romanticism, and perhaps retrospective analysis will lead to conclusions about the importance of  wild places (i.e. the snow-covered Alps).  I wonder how the ethics of creating life are environmental?  Such ethics seem more biomedical but could be viewed with regard to concerns like overpopulation.  Smith categorizes ecocriticism under cultural studies, but, compared to other perspectives, there’s relatively little ecocriticism, perhaps because it’s still an emerging field.  In research for projects in previous classes, I’ve struggled to find applicable environmental literary analysis.

My second reading of Frankenstein has been almost explicitly through a feminist lens.  Frankenstein’s 200thanniversary was in 2018, and UNE held a book discussion to commemorate it led by Richard Mathiasen.  He posed questions from a contemporary feminist perspective that got me thinking. Whereas I used to fault Victor for his willingness to “play god” and create life, I now despise him for the toxic masculinity he exudes.  Victor thinks the weight of the world falls on his shoulders and all of humanity depends on him which influences his decision not to create the female monster; he’s just not that important.  Early feminist theory pays close attention to Shelley’s biography and her relationship with her parents which doesn’t interest me as much as theory related to the content.  I am concerned with issues of authorship.  Challenge: name another women Romantic writer.  It’s difficult because the tradition is dominated by men which makes Shelley’s publication of Frankenstein especially interesting.

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