Bringing Horror to Life: The Origin of Frankenstein

The story of Frankenstein started during a rainy summer night in 1816. After a year marked by an extremely long and bitter winter, Mary Shelley and her lover, Percy Bryce Shelley, sought to escape the weather by visiting Lord Bryon’s villa in Switzerland. The three friends wandered around the vast expanse of the lake on Byron’s property, searching for inspiration in the serenity of the natural world around them. Unfortunately, frequent rain showers confined the group to the house.

Victor Frankenstein looks at his creation in horror and disgust. Illustration from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition of Frankenstein.
Illustration from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition of Frankenstein.

Sitting in Bryon’s library by the dim light of assorted candles, cradled by the dull roar of the storm outside, the three writers turned to ghost stories to pass the time. Both terrified and enlivened by the tales of monstrous apparitions and cursed households, Bryon proposed an idea: Each of them should write a ghost story and share it with their peers. From that point on, Mary Shelley pushed herself to write a story that would chill the blood, haunt the mind, and set itself apart from all other works of supernatural fiction that had come before it.

Inspiration did not come quickly or easily for her. The loftiness of her goal and the immense pressure she placed upon herself to see it through forced her into a state of writer’s paralysis. As Percy and Bryon shared the results of the previous night’s work, Mary repeatedly had nothing to show. During this time, Bryon and Percy spoke at length about philosophy; specifically, the concept of life and whether it could be created using current scientific technology and methods. Of special interest to Mary Shelley was the concept of galvanism.

Luigi Galvini introduced the idea of galvanism through a series of experiments on the remains of dissected frogs. Holding a copper probe at one end of the frog’s legs and a piece of iron at the other end, he was shocked to find that the legs twitched as if they were still alive. His nephew, Giovanni Aldini, took his research a step further and applied it to the human body. In a public demonstration in 1803, Aldini subjected the body of an executed criminal to a series of electrical shocks. The result was bone-chilling. The corpse moved as if he were still alive. His muscles spasmed, his jaw opened, his hands clenched, and one eye actually opened due to the electrical shocks.

The men eventually lost interest in the topic and went to bed. Mary, however, remained haunted by the horrific potential of science to give humans power over life and death. She tossed and turned in her bed, finally falling asleep in the middle of the night, but her sleep was far from peaceful. She had a singularly vivid and horrifying nightmare which impressed itself on her mind, described here in her introduction to Frankenstein:

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.

She finally had come up with the perfect ghost story: A man who, in trying to test the boundaries of scientific potential, creates a monster. Her protagonist, named Dr. Victor Frankenstein, is so hungry for knowledge about life and the human body that he turns to charnel houses and grave robbery in order to experiment on the bodies of the dead. After cobbling together a makeshift human from the remains of deceased criminals, Dr. Frankenstein uses the electricity from a lightning storm to give the monstrous creature life. Horrified by what he has created, Dr. Frankenstein flees from it and sets into a motion of series of tragic events for both his creation and those around him.

On that night in Byron’s villa, Mary Shelley took her worst nightmare and fashioned it into a living and breathing monster that would haunt readers for centuries to come. This Halloween, celebrate the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s release by visiting this classic. Find a dark corner, settle down, and see for yourself just why Mary Shelley’s “midnight specter” has chilled the blood and haunted the mind from the moment it took its first lumbering step in her dreams.

Celebrate Franken Fridays with us! Frighteningly fun events are held each Friday to celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th publishing anniversary. Connect with us on social media using the #FrankenFriday tag.

 Upcoming Events:

 Friday, Oct. 5: “Frankenstein’s Originality” by Anne Williams, University of Georgia professor and Gothic Writer

  • 11 a.m. to noon – Cleveland Ballroom, Nesbitt 3110, Gainvesville Campus
  • 2-3 p.m. – Hoag Auditorium, Dahlonega Campus (reception to follow)
  • 2-3 p.m. Student Resource Center 581, Oconee Campus (broadcast from Dahlonega)
  • 2-3 p.m. Cumming Campus (broadcast from Dahlonega)

 Thursday, Oct. 11:

  • 5:30p.m., Library Lobby, Dahlonega campus—David Plunkert, artist and illustrator for The New Yorker will present his creative process of illustrating the gothic novel and 200th anniversary edition of Frankenstein with modern influences. There will be a book signing before the event and afterward in the Library lobby.
  • 6 p.m., Rare Books Collections, Library 382, Dahlonega Campus—“The Monster in the Music of Mary Shelley’s Romantic Period.” Aria Performance by Benjamin Schoening, UNG Department Head of Music.

Friday, Oct. 12:

  • 1 p.m., Library 134, Gainesville campus—”The Many Faces of Frankenstein” film presentation by Dr. Candice Wilson of UNG and Dr. Tobias Wilson-Bates of Georgia Tech
  • TBA, Student Resource Center 311, Oconee Campus—From “Frankenstein” to Fake News: A brief history of science fiction by UNG instructor Derek Thiess
  • Film screenings of 1931 “Frankenstein” and selections from Films on Demand by Drs. Melissa Schindler and Ann Marie Francis and co-sponsored with the Student Government Association, Forsyth County Library (1931 film) and classroom on Cumming Campus

Thursday, Oct. 18:

  • 3:30 p.m., front of Library, West End Art Exhibit in Library, Dahlonega Campus—Birthday Party for Mary Shelley’s Creature. Reading by Scott Fugate

Friday, Oct. 19:

  • 11 a.m. to noon, Library 134, Gainesville Campus—Visiting artist Drema Montgomery, who creates art by assembling various found objects, will demonstrate her work and correlate it to Dr. Frankenstein’s manufacturing the monster.
  • Noon to 4 p.m., Forsyth County Library and Cumming Campus—Frankenstein-themed rock art by World Literature II students
  • 1 p.m., Library 134, Gainesville Campus—English faculty panel including Dr. Diana Edelman, Anita Turlington and Dr. Kasee Laster
  • TBA, Student Resource Center 311, Oconee Campus—The Many Faces of Frankenstein: media and roundtable discussion with Drs. Dan Cabaniss, Stephanie Rountree and Shane Toepfer

Friday, Oct. 26

  • 11 a.m., Library 134, Gainesville Campus—”Frankenstein and Posthumanism” faculty panel featuring Dr. Lynn Berdanier, Dr. John Hamilton, Dr. Jeanelle Morgan, and Dr. Kristin Yager
  • Noon to 3 p.m., upstairs lobby, Cumming Campus—PoeDown and costume contest
  • Noon, Library 134, Gainesville Campus—”Monster Theory” faculty panel featuring Dr. Jeff Pardue, Dr. Phil Guerty, Dr. Patsy Worrall
  • 3-5 p.m., Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega Campus—”Secrets from the Grave” guided tour of Mount Hope Cemetery by Thomas Scanlin

A Linguist’s Tree of Knowledge: An Introduction to the Tree Diagram

The tree diagram is a newer method for diagramming sentences that is most commonly used by linguists and other academic professionals. While the Reed Kellogg diagram was considered an effective tool for students to visualize sentence structure, it had many limitations. It dispensed with traditional word order and used a variety of occasionally confusing symbols, meaning the resulting diagram was difficult to understand for anyone unfamiliar with the method.

Reed and Kellogg did introduce two core grammatical concepts: Constituency, how a word relates to the larger structure of a sentence, and dependency, how a word is dependent upon each one that precedes it. The primary goal of a tree diagram is to illustrate these concepts in a way that is visibly apparent, even for those previously unfamiliar with sentence diagrams.

In a tree diagram, a sentence is divided into two parts: a subject and a predicate. They are made up of noun phrases or verb phrases. These are groups of words that include a noun or verb and any words that add as modifiers. The subject is a noun phrase while a predicate is usually a verb phrase. The noun phrase A big dog is comprised of the indefinite article ‘a’, the adjective ‘big’, and the noun ‘dog’. The verb phrase jumped over the fence consists of the verb ‘jumped’ and the prepositional phrase ‘over the fence’.

Unlike a Reed-Kellogg diagram, these components are not separated by slashes and other symbols. Instead, they descend from the subject and predicate in the form of lines acting as branches. This continues until each noun or verb phrase is broken down into its simplest parts. In the end, a sentence diagrammed in this style should look like a vast tree, with the subject and predicate acting as the trunk and the sentence modifiers standing in as the colorful and complex leaves that give it personality.

Now that you understand the basic premise of a Tree Diagram and how it breaks down a sentence, let’s take a look at an example.

Seen here, the sentence is broken down into a subject and predicate. The subject is a noun phrase that consists of the indeterminate article ‘the’ and the noun ‘dog’. The predicate is more complex, as it consists of both a verb and a noun phrase. Breaking down the predicate, the verb is ‘ate’ and the noun phrase is ‘the’ (indefinite article) and ‘bone’ (noun). As you can see, the tree diagram uses minimal symbols and little complex jargon, yet clearly illustrates how each of these words relate to and depend upon each other.

Here is another example of a tree diagram. As you can see, this one is a bit more intricate. Let’s take a look and break it down.

Once again, the sentence is divided into a subject and predicate. The subject is composed of a noun phrase: ‘the’ as an indefinite article and ‘teacher’ as a noun. The predicate is more complex than before. Its verb phrase consists of three parts: the verb ‘gave’; the noun ‘homework’; and the prepositional phrase ‘to his students’. Are you starting to get a better understanding of constituency and dependency now?

Unfortunately, tree diagrams do have some negative aspects. Like the Reed-Kellogg diagram, more complex tree diagrams can take up a great deal of space and become more difficult to decipher in the process. Additionally, as both a strength and weakness, they are more open to interpretation than the Reed-Kellogg diagram. It is possible for a sentence to have multiple, different, and equally valid tree diagrams depending upon which unit is focused on, especially with a sentence taken from classic literature.

As a whole, tree diagrams offer a clear and more nuanced look at sentence structure without sacrificing traditional word order. While they are primarily used by grammarians and other linguistic specialists, they are quickly becoming the standard method of sentence diagramming, as the result is easily comprehensible to everyone. If you are seeking to improve your writing, I recommend that you try diagramming at least one sentence a day using this method. In doing so, you will gain a greater understanding of how to compose grammatically correct, diverse, and impactful sentences.

Classroom Grammar: An Introduction to the Reed-Kellogg System

The Reed-Kellogg system is a method for diagramming sentences that was commonly taught in grammar classrooms in the past. The system was introduced in the 1870s by Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg. Previous methods of diagramming focused solely on teaching proper word order to students. The Reed-Kellogg system offered an alternative: Foregoing traditional word order in order to highlight the function of each word in a sentence. These grammarians believed that it would be most beneficial for students to discover the logical order of words in a sentence, so they could understand how to write effectively.

This system’s primary purpose is to break a sentence down into easily identifiable parts. Because it is intended for students, the method is simple and uses a minimal amount of symbols or jargon. You do not have to know every single grammatical term in order to diagram a sentence using the Reed-Kellogg method, nor do you have to focus on retaining a sentence’s original word order. For those who have no background in grammar or who are learning English as a second language, the Reed-Kellogg diagram is a great way to jump into sentence diagramming.  To start things off, here is a sample sentence that is simple in structure, as represented by Reed-Kellogg.

In a Reed-Kellogg diagram, you always start by drawing a horizontal line. You then divide it with a short vertical line. The subject of the sentence is located on the left of the vertical dividing line. In this case, the subject is “the topic”. Any sentence modifiers, such as adjectives and articles, are placed on a diagonal line below the noun or verb it is modifying. As seen here, the indefinite article “the” is situated on a diagonal line below the noun “topic”.

The predicate of the sentence is located on the right side of the dividing line. Here, the predicate is the verb phrase “was sentence diagramming”. The verb “was” is situated in the middle of the diagram as a linking verb, which simply connects the subject “the topic” to the predicate “sentence diagramming”. This is reflected by a slanting line between “was” and the rest of the predicate. Since “diagramming” is a modifier of the noun “sentence”, it is given on a diagonal line below what it modifies.

Now, let’s move onto a more complex Reed-Kellogg diagram. This one will show you how to diagram a sentence that contains a transitive action verb and a single direct object.

As you can see, this diagram is slightly different from the previous example. As the extremely simple subject of the sentence, “Joe” is on the left of the dividing vertical line. The predicate is where the meat of the sentence is. Since the verb is transitive, the line between the verb “kicked” and the direct object “ball” is straight rather than slanted. This indicates that Joe is performing an action with the ball. “High” and “in the air” are, respectively, an adverb and prepositional phrase that modify the verb “kicked” so they are given on diagonal lines below.

Although a Reed-Kellogg diagram has many positive aspects, it does have some drawbacks. Some sentences can be especially long and complex, especially if they’re taken from a piece of classical literature. Diagramming these sentences using this method can be intimidating and time-consuming. Unfortunately, the end result can be difficult to comprehend for anyone who is unfamiliar with the Reed-Kellogg system.

Additionally, while it is effective in illustrating general function within a sentence, it is not nuanced enough to show how each word in a sentence is connected to and dependent on the words around it. For example, look at the phrase “a beautiful woman”. A Reed-Kellogg diagram would list both “a” and “beautiful” as words that modify the noun “woman”. However, each of these words have different functions in the sentence. While “beautiful” modifies only the word “woman” as an adjective, “a” modifies both “beautiful” and “woman” as an indefinite article.

I hope that this post has given you a good idea of just what a Reed-Kellogg diagram is and how it is an effective (albeit traditional and therefore limited) tool for diagramming sentences. Although it is not commonly used or taught in classrooms today, I would strongly advise that any aspiring author try diagramming at least one or two sentences in this style. I’m willing to bet that it will give you a greater understanding of grammar and improve your writing in the process.

 

Our Lingua Franca: The Importance of Learning a New Language as a Tool for Writing

Globes of various sizes sit on a desk.
“Globe Collection” by João Silas

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, it is more important now than ever that we learn to develop a common tongue. There is no greater area for this than in literature. However, many writers tend to speak only in their own language when weaving their stories. I believe that this is limiting and ultimately detrimental. If you truly want to grow as a writer and have your work reach the widest number of people, I strongly recommend that you study at least one other language.

As any student of language knows, it is an extremely intimidating endeavor to step outside of one’s linguistic comfort zone. A new mode of grammar, a cryptic alphabet, and a challenging writing system—all of these are formidable obstacles. However, the greatest reward for a writer can be found in the phrases and stories that are specific to certain cultures.

For example, let us delve into the Russian language. Many Russian idioms are visually descriptive and oftentimes have an entertaining meaning. Here are two particularly interesting ones: Вешать лапшу на уши (which literally means ‘to hang noodles on one’s ears’) and Очки втирать (‘to smear eyeglasses’). Both of these phrases deal with lying or speaking nonsense, in a way that is new and unfamiliar to a non-native speaker. In exploring and learning different languages, we come across many phrases such as these that can add some spice and variety to our writing by simply changing our perspective.

In addition to idioms, many languages also bring with them a rich bounty of stories usually related to a cultural heritage. Russia, in particular, is a country that is well known for the unique figures of its folklore and mythology: the fearsome Baba Yaga, the devilish Chernabog, the bright and shining Zorya sisters, and the merry Father Frost are only a handful. When it comes to creating the setting (backbone) of a story, some of the best writers draw their inspiration from a variety of cultures. If you dedicate yourself to learning a language, you will be able to draw from and contribute to their stories in an ethical and enjoyable way for all parties.

As writers, our primary goal is not only to tell a good story but to do so in a ‘lingua franca’—a language that is commonly used as common ground between two speakers with different native tongues. Your books, poetry, poems, and music may reach further across the world than you think and, if that is the case, you want it to be in a language and voice that is accessible and enjoyable for everyone. To that end, I encourage you to write a piece that reaches out to someone in their own language and culture. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll reach out and do the same.

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Edit, Revise, and Improve: A Reflection on my Time at the UNG Press

As my time here draws to a close, I can’t help but think of my first day of work. I had just completed my introductory blog post virtually and, although I was excited to see my new workplace, I was anxious about many things. Would my supervisor and coworkers be friendly? Would the work prove to be too challenging for me? Would I somehow manage to cause a major catastrophe simply by walking in the front door? Thankfully, all of these nagging worries were dispelled the moment that I stepped into the office.

From the very beginning, Jillian and the other members of the Press have done their best to create a workspace where I can put forth my best effort every day. If there was something I did not know, Jillian or her office library could quickly fill the gaps in my knowledge. Additionally, any mistakes that I made were treated as part of the learning process which encouraged me to improve with confidence. As I learned more about the publishing industry, I knew that everyone at the Press was committed to my success.

The assignments that I worked on during the course of the internship all related directly to the industry, such as my blog post on manuscript submissions and my report on levels of copyediting. In addition to these assignments, I also created content for the social media platforms of the UNG Press. By far, my favorite project was a month-long marketing project celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s release. Along with my fellow intern Josh, I put together two blog posts — one on the origin of Frankenstein and a general author profile on Mary Shelley — as well as a series of social media posts relevant to the horror genre. Be sure to keep an eye out for it this October!

As I put together my post-internship portfolio, I can see a marked difference in my writing. I have always tended towards wordiness. However, with Jillian’s editorial assistance, I have made great strides towards becoming a more concise and clear writer. As I get ready to step out the door one last time, I would like to thank Jillian, Mrs. Parson, and Dr. Robinson for taking me on as an intern and helping me to grow as a writer. My dream is to work at a publishing press that specializes in translated literature. With my completion of this internship, I am one step closer to that goal.

5 Books Before the Fireworks

Fireworks burst into brilliant arcs of light overhead, a parade of bellowing trains leave candy in their wake, and the Star-Spangled Banner waves proudly from every homestead. It’s the Fourth of July! To celebrate this occasion, we’ve put together a reading list for the season. Ever wanted to learn more about our founding fathers? How about the unsung men and women who contributed to the Revolution? Whatever your area of interest may be, you’re sure to find an engaging and educational title on this list. Curl up in a nice and cozy spot under the glow of the fireworks, pick up one of these books, and celebrate the birth of America with a great new read!

1. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis

From Penguin Random House, 2002

In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award-winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly duel, Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams’ administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin’s attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison’s attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams’ famous correspondence–Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation’s history.

2. The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States by Gordon S. Wood

From Penguin Random House, 2012

The preeminent historian of the Founding Era reflects on the birth of American nationhood and explains why the American Revolution remains so essential.

For Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood, the American Revolution is the most important event in our history, bar none. Since American identity is so fluid, we have had to continually return to our nation’s founding to understand who we are. In a series of illuminating essays, he explores the ideological origins of the Revolution—from Ancient Rome to the European Enlightenment—and the founders’ attempts to forge a democracy. He reflects on the origins of American exceptionalism, the radicalism and failed hopes of the founding generation, and the “terrifying gap” between us and the men who created the democratic state we take for granted. This is a profoundly revealing look at the event that forged the United States and its enduring power to define us.

3. Black Americans in the Revolutionary Era: A Brief History with Documents by Woody Holton

From Macmillan, 2009

In this fresh look at liberty and freedom in the Revolutionary era from the perspective of black Americans, Woody Holton recounts the experiences of slaves who seized freedom by joining the British as well as those— lave and free—who served in Patriot military forces. Holton’s introduction examines the conditions of black American life on the eve of colonial independence and the ways in which Revolutionary rhetoric about liberty provided African Americans with the language and inspiration for advancing their cause. Despite the rhetoric, however, most black Americans remained enslaved after the Revolution. The introduction outlines ways African Americans influenced the course of the Revolution and continued to be affected by its aftermath. Amplifying these themes are nearly forty documents—including personal narratives, petitions, letters, poems, advertisements, pension applications, and images—that testify to the diverse goals and actions of African Americans during the Revolutionary era. Document headnotes and annotations, a chronology, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and index offer additional pedagogical support.

4. Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence by Carol Berkin

From Penguin Random House, 2006

The American Revolution was a home-front war that brought scarcity, bloodshed, and danger into the life of every American. In this groundbreaking history, Carol Berkin shows us how women played a vital role throughout the conflict.
The women of the Revolution were most active at home, organizing boycotts of British goods, raising funds for the fledgling nation, and managing the family business while struggling to maintain a modicum of normalcy as husbands, brothers and fathers died. Yet Berkin also reveals that it was not just the men who fought on the front lines, as in the story of Margaret Corbin, who was crippled for life when she took her husband’s place beside a cannon at Fort Monmouth. This incisive and comprehensive history illuminates a fascinating and unknown side of the struggle for American independence.

5. Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution by Joseph T. Glatthar and James Kirby Martin

From Macmillan, 2007

Combining compelling narrative and grand historical sweep, Forgotten Allies offers a vivid account of the Oneida Indians, forgotten heroes of the American Revolution who risked their homeland, their culture, and their lives to join in a war that gave birth to a new nation at the expense of their own. Revealing for the first time the full sacrifice of the Oneidas in securing independence, Forgotten Allies offers poignant insights about Oneida culture and how it changed and adjusted in the wake of nearly two centuries of contact with European-American colonists. It depicts the resolve of an Indian nation that fought alongside the revolutionaries as their valuable allies, only to be erased from America’s collective historical memory. Beautifully written, Forgotten Allies recaptures these lost memories and makes certain that the Oneidas’ incredible story is finally told in its entirety, thereby deepening and enriching our understanding of the American experience.

 

Zora Neale Hurston and Barracoon: The Importance of Preserving Dialect in Literature

Book cover of "Barracoon" by Zoea Neale Hurston
From HarperCollins, 2018.

Barracoon is a heretofore unpublished series of interviews between Zora Neale Hurston and a man named Cudjo Lewis who was the last survivor of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It has recently come into the public eye with the announcement of its upcoming release.

 Born in West Africa, Lewis (whose original name is Kossula) relates his harrowing story to Hurston: His abduction from his village as a young man; his trauma at witnessing the deaths of his kinsmen; his forced journey aboard the Clotilda; his time as a slave; and the creation of his own small community after he gained his freedom.

In keeping with Hurston’s preference for authentic dialogue, Lewis’ story is laid out in his own words and voice. For years, she struggled to find a publisher as they pressured her to present his story in “language rather than dialect” (Alter, New York Times). She strongly refused to give in to this demand and as a result, we now have an invaluable document of history. A firsthand account of the horrors of the slave trade and the efforts of African Americans to rebuild their lives in a new land once released from their bonds.

For the reader, this collection of interviews is an important addition to the growing body of work produced by African American artists in all genres. As a group whose voices have been oppressed and silenced throughout our country’s history, it is essential that every effort is made for their stories to be told authentically.

To this end, Barracoon represents an important and positive shift in the publishing industry, as there is now a concentrated effort to rediscover and present the words of those who have suffered in the past—without censorship or alteration.

Photograph of Cudjo Lewis, using his given name Kossula. From the book "Barracoon".
Photograph of Cudjo Lewis, using his given name Kossula.

We very sorry to be parted from one ’nother. We seventy days cross de water from de Affica soil, and now dey part us from one ’nother. Derefore we cry. Our grief so heavy look lak we cain stand it. I think maybe I die in my sleep when I dream about my mama. (Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo, quoted in The New York Times article of the same name.)