In What Ways Does Frankenstein Complicate the Romanticist Conceptions of Creativity and Individualism? Make Reference to Frankenstein and at Least One Other Romanticist Text.

Topics: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Romanticism, Frankenstein Pages: 6 (1869 words) Published: November 14, 2008
In what ways does Frankenstein complicate the Romanticist conceptions of creativity and individualism? Make reference to Frankenstein and at least one other Romanticist text.

Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, complies with all the fundamental principles associated with Romanticism; use of the supernatural and sublime, especially with regards for nature, thus leading to pantheism, compassion and a sense of morality towards humankind, individual freedom and rebellion against contextual societal constraints. Shelley, however, defies the Romantic principle of individual creativity, evident from the constant references to authentic Romantic works such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which will be referred to as The Rime throughout this essay) and the works of William Wordsworth.

At the start of his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth asserts, ‘…those thoughts and feelings which, by his own choice, or from the structure of his own mind, arise in him without immediate external excitement.’(Wordsworth, W. (1800). Preface to Lyrical Ballads (2nd ed.)) Wordsworth then, is implying that Romantic texts were the sole creation of their author; spawned from an emotive response to a memory or observation and nurtured to become a fully fledged, legitimate piece of authorship. Shelley however, defies Wordsworth’s theories on creativity, by building her story around existing texts. It is of importance to note that Frankenstein follows a very similar story to The Rime, in that it tells the tale of an essentially virtuous person who commits what is seen by society as a sin, and is therefore forced to endure a period of suffering and torment until they can repent for their sins. In effect, both texts depict a moral journey involving duality of the human psyche, with the sinners having to weigh up both halves of their conscience. As such, it is suspicious to say the least, that Shelley references The Rime several times throughout the novel, ‘I am going to unexplored regions, to “the land of mist and snow;” but I shall kill no albatross.’ (Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein. United States of America: Norton). Shelley obviously was familiar with the work of Coleridge and therefore it would seem logical to conclude that she ‘borrowed’ the idea for the basic story from The Rime, thereby making it obvious that she did not remain aligned to the fundamental principle of individual creativity.

Furthermore, the character of Dr. Frankenstein can be compared to Shelley herself when studying the creative aspects of Frankenstein. It can be said that the two in fact inhibit each other’s role in society contextual to the early 19th century, ‘As Victor moves into the female space of the womb, an act of creation aped by the Gods in mythology and religion, Mary Shelley as author moves into the male domain of art, aping the creative power of the Gods.’ (Bushi, R. (1996 – 2003). The deification of creativity in relation to 'Frankenstein. Retrieved December 2007, from This reversal of roles is, from one respect, remaining in accord with Romantic ideologies in that one fundamental principle of Romanticism is a struggle for freedom and a rebellion against societal constraints. Mary Shelley stays true to that aim by usurping stereotypical gender roles. However, Shelley’s reversal of roles is a contradiction with Wordsworthian Romanticism because, according to Wordsworth, authorship is a field which should be left entirely to men, ‘To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him?’ (Wordsworth, W. (1800). Preface to Lyrical Ballads (2nd ed.)). Here Wordsworth is referring to the collective poet, and it is clear from his use of the male personal pronoun that he believed authorship is a masculine occupation.

Further in keeping with Romantic dogma, Shelley uses the art of creativity combined with the archetypal Wordsworthian idea of using memories and...
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