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Posts Tagged ‘Art’

One way to approach the concept of Conflicting Perspectives for Module C is through imagery and extended metaphor. Conflicting Perspectives are about how people standing in differently places, see things (events, personalities, situations) in different ways. You know what else people see differently depending on their perspective? Art.

This is “Ascending and Descending” by MC Escher. Depending on how you look at it, the figures are either climbing or walking down stairs. The staircase is also endlessly rising or falling; again, depending on your perspective. From this image we can draw two ideas (thesis statements):

  1. Conflicting perspectives are an inevitable part of the human experience (the figures are trapped within the staircase, heading in opposite directions).
  2. Conflicting perspectives are shaped by differing contexts (how you look at the image directs whether you see the figures as “ascending” or “descending”).

This is  Salvador Dali’s portrait of his wife, entitled “My Wife Nude”. This image shows a classic nude portrait of Gala, Dali’s wife, echoed by a Gala-shaped building in the background. This image also inspires two ideas about Conflicting Perspectives:

  1. Conflicting Perspectives are  shaped by both intimacy and distance (when viewed up close, Gala is Dali’s beloved wife; from a distance, she becomes a construct).
  2. Conflicting Perspectives can exist within an individual (it is Dali, the artist, who sees his wife in these two ways).

These images could be used as related material by students who are confident in visual analysis; or they could be used as extended metaphors to shape the ideas in an essay.

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The epigraph to Frankenstein reads:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?”

This is Adam addressing his Creator in Book 10 of Milton’s Paradise Lost. This epic poem has been hugely influential, not just on Frankenstein or the Romantics but also on Western Christian thought.

Take a look at the powerpoint below. It is not comprehensive but it should give you some idea of the relevance of Milton’s great work to your study of both Frankenstein and Blade Runner.

Paradise Lost and the (post)Modern Prometheus

The image of Satan by Gustave Dore, like Milton’s text, emphasises the fallen angel, heroic rebel aspect of the character. His bat-like wings distinguish him from the angels of heaven but his pose is that of a victim and Dore has drawn him in the armour of a classical hero.

William Blake was one of the earliest of the Romantic Poets*. Nature was deeply spiritual to Blake and, as a child, he often saw visions, including one of a tree filled with angels. The bible, often mediated through interpretations such as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno, was important to Blake in both a literal and an interpretative way. He, like many of his time, saw the French Revolution as a sign of the end of the world, as foretold in the book of Revelation. The image of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar** turned into a beast of the field, carries the same warning as Frankenstein and Blade Runner: there are serious consequences for humans who play at being gods.

Jacob’s Ladder, again by Blake, shows a Romantic interpretation of the vision of Jacob (one of the patriarchs of the Israelite nation) from Genesis chapter 28. Jacob saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder from heaven; this was, the bible tells us, a sign that through Jacob’s lineage, all the inhabitants of the earth would be blessed. This reminds me of Victor Frankenstein’s insistence that his creation would be of benefit to mankind (though I notice that neither the almighty nor Frankenstein explain exactly how their blessing will work). Like Dore’s Lucifer, Blake’s angels are classical figures, showcasing the abandon with which the Romantics mixed biblical and classical mythology.

The Romantics and their influences are key to understanding the context of not only Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein but also Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

If you have any specific questions relating to posts or resources, please ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to respond.

*The Romantic Poets can be thought of as two groups or generations: those who were old enough to experience the French Revolution (either first hand by visiting France or through the many political pamphlets written about it) and those of the subsequent generation. The first group includes Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth; the second, Byron, Keats and Shelley.

**If you would like to read explore this story further it can be found in the biblical book of Daniel, chapters 2-4.

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