ย 

Frankenstein and Philosophy: Sabeen Chaudhry, Borna Radnik, Corey McCall

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

๐—ฆ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—–๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜‚๐—ฑ๐—ต๐—ฟ๐˜† ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—ฎ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐—•๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ฎ ๐—ฅ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ธ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜† ๐— ๐—ฐ๐—–๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น -This is the full video of the panel discussion โฌ‡

Abstract written by Corey McCall and Borna Radnik

Frankenstein is often read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific and technological progress and hence as a book with conservative political implications. While this is no doubt an important feature of the novel, scholars have argued that it is also a book that wrestles with the implications of radical politics and the legacy of the French Revolution. Warren Montag, for example, argues for the bookโ€™s revolutionary implications despite the fact that the French Revolution is never mentioned directly. Montag and other Marxist theorists claim that the monster represents the dispossessed masses which renders Frankenstein a story with both profound moral and political implications. So, how does our understanding of the novel change if we take the Marxistsโ€™ suggestion to read the monster as a figure of the dispossessed masses?

What makes the figure of the creature in Frankenstein so abhorrent and horrific? Victor Frankensteinโ€™s reaction to the reanimation scene in the novel suggests that the creatureโ€™s monstrosity touches upon what Kant calls the sublime, namely an experience that cannot be given categorical form, and indeed evokes feelings of boundlessness because it points to an epistemological failure. We argue that the creature induces such dread and horror because he/it resists (or eludes) ontological and epistemological categorization. By drawing on the work on Kant, as well as Alain Badiou, we interpret the reanimation scene in Shelleyโ€™s novel as an event, i.e. an occurrence that engenders an ontological rupture and destabilizes epistemology. Ontologically, Frankensteinโ€™s monster functions both as a reminder and a remainder of the abyssal (unground) (or void, in Badiouian terms) at the center of being, this is what is so existentially unsettling and uncanny about the creature.



The first few paragraphs from Chapter 5 from Mary Shelleyโ€™s Frankenstein (The Reanimation scene)


(1818)

Chapter 5

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured, and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain; I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretchโ€”the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal