Percy and Mary Shelley
Eloped when she was very young. He was already married. He wanted his current
wife to act as a sister.
His first wife committed suicide eventually. Mary and Percy ran away to
Switzerland to avoid criticism.
They became friends with Byron. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at age
19. They decided to have a contest to see who could come up with the best
Everything changes; it is mutable, like clouds that disappear forever.
2nd Stanza – We’re like lyres, each string makes a different
sound; each person is different and constantly changing.
3rd and 4th Stanzas – Each day changes and passes
away. The only constant is change. This is the doctrine of Hearclitan
flux, which goes back to the philosopher Heraclitus who said the only constant
"Mont Blanc" 1690
same mountain as in Frankenstein.
Considers it a divine object. Finds power there, terror of divine revelation
like Mt. Sinai in Bible.
The Enlightenment looked to nature for harmony & order, which it easily
found. The movement of the planets in the solar system seemed like
a giant clock, precisely keeping cosmic time for millennia.
The Romantics looked to nature for majesty and power.
Divinity = Power – supremacy of God/Nature (he was an atheist). As
in nature, so in in the divine, the Romantics sought power, will,
Awed by magnitude of mountain. Description: trees surround mountain, blown
Line 48: Platonic shades. Only storms dwell in mountain.
Lines 90-98: everything changes. God is the unmoved mover", tranquil, remote,
serene. He is transcendent (lives beyond this world), has no part in normal
reality; yet, by some, he is considered eminent (everywhere), can be seen
in everything. He considers mountain to be transcendent, above this world,
aloof from man.
Lines 107-119: Nature/God destroys everything; people flee in terror from
mountain, the Divine.
Lines 39-43: Mountain implants images into his mind.
"Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" 1694
Intellectual = beyond the ability of the senses to perceive.
Platonic influence, "shadows of unseen power." For Plato, the things
we see around us are the lowest level of reality. The beautiful chair
should lead us to contemplate the IDEA of the beautiful chair, which should
lead us to contemplate the idea of Beauty itself.
Truth comes to us from above but is evident in images/shadows of reality
that we observe.
Contemplation of beauty in physical things leads to higher progression
of contemplation of ideal beauty. Emanates outward because beauty is within.
Stanza 3 – Gnostic Doctrine: must have secret knowledge to get to heaven;
levels you must pass through. In some Gnostic systems, the spirit was imprisoned
by body by the evil Old Testament God Jehovah. The good God Jesus
Stanza 4 – wishes beauty would stay firm within our loves so that we could
be Gods. Beauty comes and goes however. Searches for transcendence in beauty
so he can be immortal.
Stanza 5 – He sought beauty & satisfaction in the physical world.
The spirit awoke him to beauty. Spirit is spring. The cave
could be an oblique reference to Plato's parable of the cave, where Plato
describes the movement from sense perception to spiritual perception.
Stanza 6 – dedicated himself to creating beauty through poetry in a tribute
to the ultimate beauty.
Line 78 – nature descended on his passive youth on mountain, Mt. Blanc.
Beauty is imminent in everything.
Meets an Egyptian who tells him of a ruined statue in desert. Legs still
stand, head with sneer was found in sand. His power has become formless.
Only ruins of creation remain. We live to create but our power has limits
because when we die, nothing remains.
The king thought his great works would lead the visitor to despair of accomplishing
The fact that his works are crumbled to dust makes us instead despair of
achieving anything permanent. Like that song "Dust in the Wind" by
The notes below are for material we aren't reading this quarter.
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.
Prometheus (or his spirit) is giving him a ride. He had been saved to a
rock because he stole Zeus’ fire (Zeus makes lightning).
Prometheus created man. He needed fire from Mt. Olympus to give man a spark.
Was a Titan, cousin of Zeus. Zeus created woman to get even with man.
Heaven’s despotism is the law that keeps man from having divine fire (Greek
Line 19 – "Demogorgon": Satanic hero defies omnipotent power.
Prometheus unchained/unbound – free because he created.
Dream of man: to create life without sexual reproduction because women
call into question the progeny of descendants. You can’t be sure of who
your father really is.
Frankenstein creates ugliness from filth; assembles different body parts
from stuff he collected.
Why did he make him so big? It was hard to work with small parts.
2 Intros: Husband’s Preface – he doesn’t want people to think she’s against
science since it shows limitations/destructiveness of creation.
Alchemists tried to make gold from other elements that were associated
with hell. Man with secret knowledge. God limits.
Frankenstein – original mad scientist. Studied alchemy during his youth.
Promise of Science: new knowledge/discoveries to make life easier.
Science has made life better but worse at same time. People want benefits.
Mad scientist is blinded by his quest. Looses site of morality.