Crossover

I may be “cheating.”

It was my turn to choose a selection for the Dark and Stormy Book Club, so I’ve got us reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which also happens to be the novel I’m teaching my lit. class this month.

I started the class by showing them the Hallmark interpretation of the storyI’ve mentioned this production before – I really do love it.  I’ve never seen the Boris Karloff film – can anyone give me a rundown of the story as the old filmmakers imagined it, please? – but I know that they involve a big, green guy whose only purpose in “life” is to terrify innocent villagers.  The Hallmark story really does a decent job of telling the big ideas of Shelley’s novel – it touches on ambition and hubris, humanity and literacy, love, fear, and responsibility.

I think that the film, for all it’s really good stuff, has a few weak points, though.  Frankenstein’s childhood story is altered a fair bit in the movie.  He makes a couple of realizations in the film that he never quite gets to in the novel.  The depth of Frankenstein’s obsession isn’t as serious in the movie as it is in the story.  Lastly, the Creature, as played by Luke Goss, is a little too handsome in the film; I bet that, if seen in dim light, he wouldn’t be instantly repulsive or frightening.

My students, while admitting to being overwhelmed by the amount of reading I’m asking them to do in a short amount of time (“It’s a literature class, kids – you had to expect a lot of reading”), told me on Thursday that they were enjoying it.  Only one student of the eight has had any experience with the text before – she read a portion of the novel in high school – and the rest of them seem pretty enthusiastic to get into it.  One of my students – my only boy – told me, after reading through chapter four, that he understands why it’s my favorite novel.  I’m still working out why it’s my favorite story, so I’m really looking forward to discussions with this group.

Their only homework this weekend was to keep reading (I’ve given them through chapter 21).  I’m going to have to rely pretty heavily of my memory of the story (good thing I’ve read it about seven times already) because, since this is a Yoga National Guard weekend, I’ve got about zip-point-shit for reading time.  I’ll probably get through to about chapter 15 or so – I was ahead of their reading last week, anyway – and we’ll start discussions on Tuesday.  I can’t wait.

Have YOU read the novel?  Do you like it?  Let’s start a conversation here: gimme what you got!

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9 Comments

Filed under admiration, Literature, reading, Teaching, the good ones

9 responses to “Crossover

  1. In my Women’s Literature class, we watched Branagh’s Frankenstein. It was the one she felt most closely followed Shelley’s book. I’m curious if you had seen this movie and what your thoughts were on it.

  2. I did see this movie – though I should probably see it again – but I HATED it. I’m not overly fond of Branagh in the first place – there’s an arrogance about him that I find distracting – and the bit at the end where he reanimates Elizabeth and he and the Creature fight over her without ANY regard to what SHE might want was the proverbial straw for me (though that DOES nicely illustrate the whole idea of “women as property” that was very prominent in the book).

    I’m curious, Ms. Teacher – did your prof see the Hallmark version? I recognize that it has its flaws (what book-to-film version doesn’t?) but I really do think it’s the best production yet.

  3. WL

    I read the book years and years ago and loved it, but haven’t re-read it recently. I’ve never seen a movie version I really liked.

    This just came out:

    http://tinyurl.com/3ctxzb

    and looks interesting. The staying power this story has had in our culture is amazing.

  4. mrs. chili, this was over a decade ago, so I really don’t remember if she mentioned the Hallmark version or not. I’ll have to check it out though because you’ve got me curious.

  5. WL, that link doesn’t work for me – can you clarify, please?

    Sorry, Ms. Teacher – I made an assumption that your experience was more recent. The Hallmark version was released in 2004. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find it in a video store, but it’s worth the hunt, I think…

  6. WL

    Oops. It’s a link to this book at Amazon:

    Frankenstein: A Cultural History
    by Susan Tyler Hitchcock

    The PW description says:

    “Literary historian Hitchcock (Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London) leads readers on a guided tour of Frankenstein appearances in this colorful and consistently entertaining narrative. The history begins, appropriately, with the monster’s unlikely creation by Mary Shelley as a result of a ghost story challenge … Hitchcock then lays bare the publishing world of the 19th century … James Whale’s Karloff classic gets its due, as do the disturbing and innovative 1910 Edison Company production and the 1952 live television broadcast starring a drunk Lon Chaney Jr. Running throughout the book is the parallel story of the invocation of Frankenstein in the public discourse as a metaphor for subjects ranging from the Crimean war to genetically modified organisms. While some Frankenstein dilettantes might find the narrow focus of the book somewhat tedious, there are enough strange and delightful anecdotes to keep most readers engaged.”

  7. I have read Frankenstein. Interestingly, I read it because I found a remaindered book called “Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Theodore Roszak. I love reading a re-telling of a story from another character’s perspective. So I bought the original, read it, and then read the “sequel.”

  8. MICHAEL! I was given a copy of “Memoirs” by my cooperating teacher from my Master’s program, but I haven’t made the time to read it yet. Did you love it? Should I move it to the top of my list?

  9. Not knowing the contents of your reading list, I hesitate to discuss its relative merits. However, I really enjoyed it. It goes into a lot more detail of the backstory, which is something I love. I think you’ll probably like it.

    ~M

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