Mini Reviews, Vol. 4 ~ The Joys of Literary Tangents

Assignment #2 for the Frankenstein MOOC was discussion-board-based. The focus for Week 3 is going to be the literary references and allusions that Shelley uses. These things led me down an enjoyable literary rabbit hole over the weekend. I read all of these in the kitchen of my brother-in-law’s house. We live in great times when I can access three classics in as much time as it takes to type the titles into the search bar.

alt text
Engraving by Gustave Doré
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I’ll be honest, after only one reading, there’s a lot I’m missing in this poem. Obviously, there is a Frankenstein connection involving sea-going misadventures and, I do believe, Shelley quotes the poem. Otherwise…themes of the consequences of actions? “Rime” seems to rely on the supernatural to dole out retribution, though Frankenstein’s creature is so super-human that he might as well be supernatural. I’ll give “Rime” another read after I finish Frankenstein.

alt text
Harry Clarke’s 1919 illustration
“A Descent into the Maelström” by Edgar Allan Poe

Not at all connected to Frankenstein, but I was reminded of it while reading “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  It can be noted that “Maelström” and “Rime” do share structural features with Frankenstein—the frame story. The mariner in “Maelström” is relating his story to some poor schlub who is afraid of heights, while the ancient mariner in Coleridge’s poem waylaid a  wedding guest (an interesting choice). In Frankenstein, we’re being told the tale by the mariner (Walton) who is relating the story Victor Frankenstein tells (who is relating the tale told to him by the monster…). “Maelström” is pretty tense once it gets going, but it has a slow start. It’s often counted as one of Poe’s ratiocination tales because the narrator figures out how to save himself through the observation of what’s going on around him.

alt text
All the foreign language editions had better covers.
“Herbert West––Reanimator” by H. P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft is not my favorite weird author, but he has his place in the pantheon of horror. Someone on the MOOC discussion board mentioned Herbert West and, while I’ve seen the Stuart Gordon film, I hadn’t read the source material. There is definitely a few similarities between Herbert West and Victor Frankenstein. Both are interested in the reanimation of the dead and both pay for their transgressions against nature in the end. The difference is after West runs away from his first horrid creation, he tries again. And again. And again.

“Herbert West—Reanimator” is actually a set of six stories that were originally serialized. Lovecraft didn’t care for the tales (presumably written for the money) and they are considered some of Lovecraft’s poorest work (according to Wikipedia). Personally, I like these better than the other Lovecraft stories I’ve read. They are less ornate and move along at a good pace. The only problem? If you have any doubt about how racist Lovecraft can be, read the third installment, “Six Shots by Moonlight.” Or, you know, don’t.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.