Posts Tagged ‘Module A’

Biblical allusion – most of the references to heaven and hell, angels and demons in both texts are filtered through either Milton’s Paradise Lost or Dante’s Inferno (there’s a hint of Blake in Blade Runner to look out for as well). It is useful to have at least a passing knowledge of these texts.

  • Victor “wandered like an evil spirit” in “a hell of intense tortures” (p105).

  • Elizabeth: “I feel as if I were walking on the edge of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding, and endeavouring to plunge me into the abyss” (p109).

  • “nor the beauty of earth, nor of heaven, could redeem my soul from woe” (p110).

  • For the creature, the De Lacey cottage is a “divine retreat as Pandemonium appeared to the daemons of hell after their sufferings in the lake of fire” (p125) – again, this is Paradise Lost. Reminds me of a line from Percy Shelley’s diary: “my mother fancies me on the high road to Pandemonium”.

Motif of sickness – reinforces Victor’s capacity to feel emotions deeply

  • “This state of mind preyed upon my health” (p105).

The sublime – and Victor’s Romantic imagination, which allows him to take spiritual comfort from the beauty of nature

  • “the dashing of the waterfalls around spoke of a power mighty as Omnipotence” (p111).

  • “augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all” (p111).

  • “glorious presence – chamber of imperial Nature…they elevated me from all littleness of feeling” (p113).

  • “the presence of another soul would destroy the solitary grandeur of the scene” (p114) – see Wordsworth, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ for a similar sentiment.

  • “sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul” (p115) – look out for references to Shelley (Percy, not Mary) around here.

Motif of ice and fire

  • “pallid lightnings that played above Mont Blanc” (p112).

The ideal of the noble savage

  • “Alas! why does man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessary beings (p115) #humblebrag.

The relationship between creator and creature

  • “almost too horrible for human eyes” (p116) – Victor is horrified by the creature because of its appearance. Perhaps we, as readers, empathise with the creature precisely because we can not see it. Consider this idea when comparing descriptions of the creature with the physical beauty of the Replicants.

  • “How dare you sport thus with life?” (p117) – the creature challenges Victor.

  • “I am thy creature, and I will be ever mild and docile to my natural lord and king” (p118) – irony?

  • “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel” (p118) – probably the best quote in this novel, allusion to Paradise Lost.

  • The creature emphasises the divide between itself and humanity, “your fellow-creatures” (p118).

  • “Yet it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil” (p119) – allusion to the Lord’s Prayer (and deliver us from evil), suggesting Victor is a god-like figure, which is reinforced by…

  • “I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were” (p120).

The creature as complex being with a Romantic imagination of his own

  • “A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me” (p121).

  • “Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens, and gave me a sensation of pleasure” (p122).

  • “I wished to express my sensations in my own mode” (p123)

Scientific belief

  • “the light from my eyes” (p122) – I think (and this might be a stretch) that this is a reference to a Renaissance belief that the ability to see is linked to our eyes creating light.

  • “I knew nothing of the science of words of letters” (p130) – and yet the creature learns by applying the scientific method, reinforcing the Enlightenment idea that men are inherently rational.

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Discussions of what are and are not appropriate human pursuits foreshadows the disastrous consequences of Victor’s passions (p57).

Look out for high register language, particularly from Victor. In spite of his horror of the creature he still speaks with pride, “the accomplishment of my toils” (p59).

Eye motif

  • “dull yellow eye” “watery eyes” (p59)


  • “I had selected his features as beautiful” (p59)


  • Victor’s dream about Elizabeth.

Victor Frankenstein as Romantic hero. Not only his relationship with the sublime natural world but also his capacity for extreme depth of feeling. Perhaps undermined by his hubristic pursuit of knowledge and power?


  • “divine spring” (p66) water symbolises birth and renewal.


  • Justine “learned the duties of a servant; a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance, and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being” (p70). Contrast with the treatment of the Replicants in Blade Runner. This may also be Shelley’s critique of the way in which servants were treated in England.


  • Clerval is described as an “Orientalist” (p75). The Romantics were fascinated by other cultures, often seeing them as being closer to nature. See Coleridge’s Kubla Khan for an example of Romantic Orientalism.

  • “Their melancholy is soothing, and their joy elevating to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors of any other country” (p75).

  • “How different from the manly and heroical poetry of Greece and Rome” (p75). Romantic reaction against the Classicism of the Renaissance.

  • Gothic image of Caroline kneeling by her father’s coffin (p86).

  • Shakespearean allusion, “my prophetic soul” (p101) – see Hamlet I.v and Sonnet 107.

Motifs of fire and ice:

  • “I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid, all around was calm; and the snowy mountains, ‘the palaces of nature’ were not changed” (p82).

  • “the lightnings playing on the summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures” (p83).

  • “so beautiful yet terrific” (p84) – remember that “terrific” means “terrifying,” not “great”.

The inhumanity of the creature

  • “the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity” (p84).

  • “living monument of presumption and rash ignorance” (p89).

Motif of sickness

  • “the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at the time…would give an air of delirium (p85).

Guilt and innocence

  • Justine

    • described as “poor,” “good,” and “innocent” (p88) and “the most amiable and benevolent of human creatures” (p95) – note the contrast with Victor’s descriptions of the creature.

    • “her countenance, always engaging, was rendered, by the solemnity of her feelings, exquisitely beautiful” (p91).

    • “God knows…how entirely I am innocent” (p93).

  • “every human being was guiltless” (p89) [really Victor? Even you? – sorry, sometimes I can’t help editorialising…wait for it…]

  • Victor: “I, the true murderer” (p98).


  • “all judges had rather that ten innocent should suffer than that one guilty escape (p97) – this is the inverse of the Enlightenment ideal of the presumption of innocence, or “innocent until proven guilty” a term coined by Enlightenment lawyer Sir William Garrow.

  • Judges are described as “harsh, unfeeling, reasoning” (p100) – the opposite of the Romantic ideal.

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The role of women:

  • “Caroline Beaufort possessed a mind of an uncommon mould.” (p26)

  • “the guardian angel of the afflicted” (p29) – Shelley reflects contextual values by portraying women as angelic helpers of men

Victor’s idyllic childhood with perfect parents

  • “Harmony was the soul of our companionship” (p32) – an example of romantic relationship that Victor has experienced first hand but fails to achieve for himself or to provide to his creation. [see post on Playing God in Frankenstein and Blade Runner]

Victor’s passion, however, is for knowledge, not love

  • “I was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge” (p32)

  • “I delighted in investigating their causes. The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine.” (p32) – “smitten” “delight” “desire” – romantic imagery but Victor’s passions are misplaced

Clerval as a foil to Victor

  • “deeply read in books of chivalry and romance” (p33)

  • “occupied himself with the moral relations of things” (p34) – highlighting that Victor did not consider these at all

  • It is the loss of companionship that allows Victor to lose his moral compass, “I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable companions…I was now alone.” (p43)


  • “Natural philosophy is the genius that regulated my fate” (p35) – “genius” here could mean spirit

  • “immutable laws of Destiny” (p39) – note the personification of Destiny through the use of capitalisation

  • “chance – or rather evil influence, the Angel of Destruction – led me first to M. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy.” (p44) – it seems to me that Victor’s continual references to fate are an attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions.


  • “Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth.” (p36) – for a neat contextual link to Blade Runner,

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos[first published 1980]

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Walton feels alone, foreshadowing the loneliness of the creature:

  • “most severe evil, I have no friend” (p8) If loneliness is the most severe evil, what does that suggest about Victor’s treatment of his creation?

The positive qualities of humanity:

  • “gentle yet courageous…of a cultivated as of a capacious mind” (p8)

  • “some feelings, unallied to the dross of human nature, beat even in these rugged bosoms” (p9) – “dross” is also a biblical allusion, see Proverbs 25:4

  • “retains some of the noblest endowments of humanity” (p9)

Poetic allusions:

  • repetition of the word “romantic” (pp8-10)

  • “Ancient Mariner” (p11) – too obvious to be an allusion, this is really a reference to Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’

  • “I shall kill no albatross” (p11) – allusion to the above poem

The idea of the Noble Savage

  • “southern cape of Africa or America?” (p12)

Walton’s first glimpse of the creature…:

  • “a being which had the shape of a man” (p15) – as distinct from an actual man

  • this view led to a sense of “unqualified wonder” (p16)

…Which contrasts with Walton’s first impression of Victor:

  • “a human being” (p16)

  • “He was not as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island [I suspect this is an allusion to Shakespeare’s The Tempest] but an European.” (p16)

  • “I begin to love him as a brother” (p19)

  • “noble creature” (p19)

Victor’s description of the creature…:

  • “the daemon” (p18)

…And its dehumanising effect on him:

  • “inhuman in me to trouble you” (p18)

Ethics (or Shelley’s message to the reader):

  • “One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought.” (p20)

  • “You seek for knowledge and wisdom…a serpent to sting you.” (pp22-23) – biblical allusion to Genesis 3.

The setting – sublime:

  • “wild and mysterious regions” contrasted against the “tamer scenes of nature” (p23)

Fate and foreshadowing (expressed in high modality language):

  • “nothing can alter my destiny” (p23)

  • “irrevocably determined” (p23)

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I recently discovered an old notebook filled with my own study notes on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Rather than simply throw it out, I thought I would type the notes and share them here.

[Page nos refer to the BOS preferred edition]

The Northwest Passage – literally a trade route through the Arctic Ocean; however, during Shelley’s time its existence remained theoretical (it was discovered in 1902 and has only really been useful as a sea lane since 2009). In this letter it represents the hope that there is still room for discovery and heroism in the world.


This technique is popular in gothic novels and gothic novels were popular during this era. In fact, they were so popular that parodies such as Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey were written and published before Frankenstein.

  • Margaret’s “evil foreboding” (p3)

  • Walton’s “foretaste” (p3)


This is a technique where opposites are juxtaposed. I think this really captures something of the depth and complexity of Romantic thought.

  • “frost and desolation” vs “beauty and delight” (p3)

  • “courage and resolution” vs “spirits…depressed” (p6)

  • “soon or never” (p7)

  • success vs failure (p6)

Biblical Allusion

This has to be the number one technique in Frankenstein (and it’s prevalent in Blade Runner too).

  • “eternal light” “all mankind to the last generation” “heaven” “soul”(p4)

  • “paradise” “consecrated” (p5)

  • “St Petersburg and Archangel” (p6)

  • “blessings” “testify” (p7)

Shelley also puts the Christian language of the bible in a broader spiritual and Classical context.

  • “temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated” (p5)

Science and Technology

  • “intellectual eye” (p4) also keep an eye out for the eye motif in both texts

  • “maths, medicine, physical science” (p5)


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Essay planning in an exam situation can be tricky. You need to ensure that your essay answers the whole question; however, you’re also pretty pressed for time. In the HSC, taking five minutes to plan is worth it and the first part of your planning time should be spent breaking down the question. Here are some examples of how breaking down the question can give you an essay plan.

2009 Area of Study: Belonging, Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson and The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan

“Understanding nourishes belonging … a lack of understanding prevents it.”

Demonstrate how your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing represent this interpretation of belonging.

Break down

  • Understanding nourishes belonging.
    • The persona in ‘I died for beauty’ finds belonging through a shared understanding of art (shown through the metalepsis of truth and beauty).
    • The bilbies in The Rabbits understand and therefore belong within their landscape (shown through their shape, which echoes the natural swirls of the setting).
  • A lack of understanding prevents belonging
    • The persona in ‘What Mystery Pervades a Well!’ is alienated from her surroundings through a lack of understanding (alternative: gender distance due to mutual lack of understanding).
    • The bilbies and the rabbits are unable to co-exist harmoniously due to language and cultural differences that prevent understanding.
  • A lack of understanding can lead to a different type of belonging.
    • The persona in ‘I had been hungry all the years’ fails to grasp the attraction of belonging to a community but finds a different type of belonging with nature.
    • Rather than learning to belong in a landscape they don’t understand, the Rabbits reshape the landscape and commodify it to belong to them.

2010 Module A: Texts in Time, Frankenstein and Blade Runner

Analyse how Frankenstein and Blade Runner imaginatively portray individuals who challenge the established values of their time.

Break down:

  • What are the “established values” of the times?
    • Industrialisation (progress and ownership) and Enlightenment (rationality) versus Romanticism (spirituality and Nature) and Morality (compassion and kindness).
    •  Capitalism (commodification and profit) and Technological advancement (pushing boundaries) versus Environmentalism (nature and conservation) and Ethics (humaneness).
  • Which “individuals” are “challenging” them? How and why?
    • Victor Frankenstein challenges traditional morality by usurping the role of god as creator, he does this because of hubris.
    • Eldon Tyrell challenges ideas of conservation and ethics by creating disposable genetically engineered “replicant” slaves, he does this for profit.
  • What are the consequences of these challenges?
    • For Victor the consequences are personal, the death of his family, friends, and himself.
    • For Tyrell the consequences are global, the destruction of the natural world, as well as personal.

2010 Module B: Critical Study of Texts, Hamlet

‘Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to engage audiences through its dramatic treatment of struggle and disillusionment.’

In the light of your critical study, does this statement resonate with your own interpretation of Hamlet?

Break down

  • Who struggles? What with?
    • Hamlet struggles with the task of revenge laid on him by the ghost because of the conflict between his duty and his personal ethics.
    • Ophelia also struggles with the conflict between her role as a daughter and a sister (and the contextual expectations of woman) and her feelings for Hamlet.
    • Modern audiences continue to relate to this struggle because the conflict between family obligation and personal beliefs is a universal human concern.
  • Who is disillusioned? What with?
    • Hamlet is disillusioned with what he sees as a corrupt world; the corrupt court of Denmark is a microcosm of this.
    • Political and moral corruption are ongoing concerns that resonate with a modern audience.
  • What is the ultimate consequence of this struggle and disillusionment?
    • Tragedy.

Asking a few brief questions to draw out the key ideas in the question is a worthwhile use of your precious exam time if it means answering the whole question with a sustained, structured response.


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If you’re having trouble grappling with the “similar content” in the Module A elective Texts in Time, these articles may help.

Worldspace in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner

This article, by Evan L. Wendel, not only helps students to focus on the relevance of each text’s setting, it is also a wonderful example of essay structure with integrated paragraphs.

Frankenstein‘s Futurity: Replicants and Robots

Jay Clayton’s contribution to the Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein is impressive in scope. You’ll need to scroll down to the section entitled The Replicant’s Tears (page 5 of the pdf or 88 if you’ve grabbed the book) for Module A specific stuff, but if you want a more general understanding of the ongoing relevance of Frankenstein, the entire chapter is worth a read.

The Evolutionary Relationship Between Man and Technology

This article by Magar Etmekdjian focuses on context and the way in which Blade Runner can be viewed as an extension of Frankenstein. It very helpfully refers back to the module rubric as well.


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One of the “big questions” explored in the comparative study of Frankenstein and Blade Runner is, “what does it mean to be human?”

This question is not only integral to developing an understanding of both texts but also so broad and ephermeral as to be almost useless. Let’s pin it down by rephrasing, “what are the qualities that distinguish a human being from artificial life forms?” or, for this particular study, “what are the qualities that, if present in artificial life forms, would force us to consider them human?”

  • humans imagine – humans have the capacity to not only remember the past but to imagine the future or to imagine alternate worlds. This capacity for imagination is integral to the next three points…
  • humans are mortal… and aware of it – the capacity to imagine a different world means the capacity to imagine a world without ourselves in it. It is this awareness of the fragility of human life that makes it so significant and important, not only to each individual but also as a subject of literary endeavour. It the awareness of their own mortality that drives the replicants to Earth in Blade Runner.
  • humans have empathy – the ability to imagine ourselve in the position of others–not just other humans, but also other sentient beings–is one which is developed through relationships but also through reading. The great irony in Blade Runner is that while the replicants are identified by their inability to empathise with animals, it is the humans who lack empathy for each other and for the replicants.
  • humans create – since the cave paintings in Lascaux, human beings have been driven to create works of art; and even before the invention of language and art, humans were procreating, seeking immortality for their genes through their children. The irony in Frankenstein is that Victor seeks glory through his unnatural creation and this eventually results in the destruction of any hope of having children when Elizabeth is murdered.
  • humans seek relationships – we are, above all, social creatures. The need to understand and be understood, to love and be loved, is at the heart of the human experience. It is this need that drives the creature to beg Victor for a mate in Frankenstein and empowers Deckard and Rachel to seek a life together in spite of not knowing how much time they have.

Most of the examples in this list seem to point to the humanity, and humane-ness, of the artificial life forms in each text. If you can articulate a response to this paradox, you are well on the way towards developing strong responses to this module.

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Establishing statement: why is a comparative study important?
Comparative notes
Sub-heading (theme): the Romantic imagination
Definition: the capacity to appreciate and be spiritually uplifted by beauty, particularly the sublime
Example: On first seeing the moon, the creature says, ” I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees…I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path.” (high register, positive verbs, double meaning of “enlightened”)
When dying, Roy reflects, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…” (the language of science fiction to convey the sublime, simile)
Both the creature and Roy demonstrate their engagement with the natural world using poetic language. This challenges their narrative contexts, within which they are viewed as non-human but reinforces their historical contexts and the purpose of their composers, which is to highlight the significance of the natural world to the human experience/condition.

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Here is how I would approach Paper 2:

Tactic Time (mins) Count Down Clock
Reading Time
Read the questions for Modules A, B, and C. Make sure you check that you read the correct questionfor your elective/text. 5 2h
Writing Time
Annotate the question for Module A and plan your response, including a strong thesis statement and between two and four main supporting points. Remember the focus of this module is CONTEXT. 5 1h55m
Write your Module A essay. 35 1h20m
Annotate the question for Module B and plan your response, including a strong thesis statement and between two and four main supporting points. Remember the focus of this module is RECEPTION. 5 1h15m
Write your Module B essay. 35 40m
Annotate the question for Module C and plan your response, including a strong thesis statement and between two and four main supporting points. Remember the focus of this module is REPRESENTATION. 5 35m
Write your Module C essay. 35 0

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