Is Victor Frankenstein Coleridge? An analysis

As the editor of the NGSC blog, I occasionally have to tweak articles by adding tags and categories. Over the last year, I’ve been surprised to notice that among the least-used tags on our website is that of our old and revered friend STC. This post is an attempt to rectify the NGSC’s woeful deficiency of Coleridge by shoehorning him into dialogue with one of our most popular texts, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Tonight, I offer you a (parodic but suggestive) argument that Victor Frankenstein is, in fact, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Is this the face of Victor Frankenstein?
Is this the face of Victor Frankenstein?

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Guest Post: Reading, or Ardor

By Andrew Welch

Rereading Keats’s Poems of 1817, I’m struck by how many pieces belong to the noble & distinguished tradition of poetry that frets about its own inadequacy. Keats begins “To My Brother George” in accordance:

Full many a dreary hour have I past,
My brain bewilder’d, and my mind o’ercast
With heaviness

What’s wrong, dear Keats?

                                    I’ve thought
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That I should never hear Apollo’s song
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That still the murmur of the honey bee
Would never teach a rural song to me:
That the bright glance from beauty’s eyelids slanting
Would never make a lay of mine enchanting,
Or warm my breast with ardour to unfold
Some tale of love and arms in time of old.

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The Visionary Power of M.H. Abrams

I happened to be revisiting The Prelude this morning in preparation for a class when I came home to learn of the passing of M.H. Abrams. At the bottom of the obituary that I read, The Ithaca Voice pulled together memories of Abrams that were posted for his 100th birthday celebration a few years back. E.D. Hirsch wrote this:

“Here are 3 Abrams-isms lodged in my memory after many decades.

After a wayward 2 years at Cornell, including some disagreements with my sophomore English professor, I came to see you (around 1947/8) about an honors program you were starting. After a few minutes of chat, I confessed that I had just made a C in sophomore English. You said “You’re in. It takes a lot of talent to make a C in that course.”

My favorite scholarly Abrams-ism: good criticism requires “a keen eye for the obvious.”

My favorite airport-waiting-room Abrams-ism: I ask you: Have you read “A Sea of Thighs?” You replied without a pause: “No, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of that one.”

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Bring Out Yer Dead: Why Edinburgh’s “Public” Dissections are Important

A Lecture at the Hunterian Anatomy School
A Lecture at the Hunterian Anatomy School

Last month, word began to spread that Edinburgh University will be offering anatomy lessons. This does not sound all that unusual: it’s one of the oldest and most prestigious medical schools in the world, of course the study of anatomy should be at the forefront of the curriculum. What makes this exciting, however, is that the university is offering anatomy lessons using real cadavers, and the lessons will be open to the public. The first mention I saw of this boasted that this is the “First public anatomy lectures planned in the UK since Burke and Hare,” referring to the infamous 1828 case in which William Burke and William Hare delivered over a dozen bodies through the back door of Dr. Robert Knox’s dissection theater for use in teaching anatomy, bodies that were killed for that very purpose (and for the meager sum it paid). Continue reading

Guest Post: Ways for English Graduate Students to Scare Landlords with Terrible Fridge Magnet Poetry

By Katherine Magyarody-Sigal

A few days ago, I climbed the stairs to my apartment and encountered my landpeople, who let me know that they had been in to check on some electrical wiring. They are extremely nice and shy about coming into our space. Anyways, I made it up the final flight of stairs and dumped my bookbag onto the kitchen table. And I looked over. And I froze. And I hoped that in their journey across the apartment, they did not look at the kitchen table and did not see the cookie sheet there, on which I had composed the worst fridge-magnet poetry ever. Poetry…not even poetry…words that makes me seem delusional, lovelorn, possibly homicidal. It begins:

if nevermore
I mourn that kiss
my silent scream
will make him howl Continue reading

Proposing a Special Session for MLA

Last week, I submitted a panel proposal for the next MLA convention in January 2016. (alternative title for this post: What was I thinking?!?)

I was motivated, in part, by an important realization about my own position on the academic career ladder:

There comes a time in every young scholar’s life when she must realize that she is no longer part of the junior graduate cohort. Suddenly there are an uncountable number of faces that you don’t recognize around the department, and conversations being held about seminars you didn’t even know were being offered. This signals only one thing: you’re now horrifyingly closer in position to that new assistant professor who just got hired than you are to the first-year doctoral students. You are more scholar than student, more faculty than freshman. (When did this happen, exactly?!)

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Poem: When I consider the mind

Since beginning to write for this blog, I’ve been thinking back to a paper I once wrote on Keats’ “Ode to Psyche.” The poem is fascinating to me because of the way it describes the poet’s mind as a sort of bower in which Psyche may live. I’ve written a poem in response to this image, although I’m not so much interested in the poem itself (it’s not exactly Keats!) as in how it has allowed me to think more about the mind as a growing thing.

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Blake in Song: Interview with a Composer

In this post, I have the very great pleasure of interviewing the contemporary composer Ben Scheer about his new artistic production.  Ben, who studies composition and violin at the Eastman School of Music, has just written and released a new work for voice and piano based on William Blake’s poem “A Poison Tree,” from the Songs of Experience (1794). A recording of the piece, which features the soprano Rebecca Herlich and the pianist Forrest Moody, is available on Soundcloud here. Ben answers my questions about his contemporary setting of Blake’s poem after the jump.

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NGSC E-Roundtable: The Pedagogy of Romanticism

INTRO: Renee Harris, Emily Zarka, and Daniel Nutters will focus their roundtable discussion on pedagogy around two essays by Mark Edmundson included in his recent book Why Teach? In Defense of a Real Education. The essays are entitled “The English Major” and “Teaching the Truths” and were previously published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 29th, 2013) and Raritan (23.1) respectively.

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While Why Teach? contains a polemic against the bureaucratization of education and the corporate logic of professionalism that governs academia, it also offers a vision of a “real education” that rests upon many assumptions inherent to what we now call “romantic ideology.” What makes this book, and especially the two essays we will consider, such an appropriate text to consider for a roundtable on pedagogy on the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus blog is the manner in which it demonstrates the continued relevance of such highly charged categories as “genius,” “imagination,” “truth,” and all the motifs of a “natural secular” theology of art. At the core of Edmundson’s thinking is not just a familiar and clichéd humanist vision, but one that has survived the culture wars (see Edmundson’s edited volume Wild Orchids and Trotsky), the apparent anti-humanist theory (or as he puts it anti-literature philosophy) of the 1970s and 1980s (see his Literature Against Philosophy). Absorbing these consequential intellectual events has allowed Edmundson to assess our current academic scene and argue for a vision of education that builds upon his own experience of the changes witnessed and occurring in higher education. Continue reading

Symposium on the Biological Turn in Literary Studies

Last month the Duke English Department and the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory hosted a symposium on “the biological turn in literary studies.” It was, from my perspective, an exciting and successful event, and will likely be of interest to many of us in the NGSC. It would be very difficult for me to do justice to the first-rate talks of the individual presenters in only a brief description; below I offer merely a round-up of the premises of the different talks, and I would encourage everyone to check out the linked videos for any (and all!) of those talks that catch your attention. My great thanks to Rob Mitchell and Nancy Armstrong for organizing the symposium, and to Davide Carozza and Stefan Waldschmidt for making the whole thing happen and for making the videos available to a wider public!

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Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism