Tag Archives: reading

Let’s Talk About FRANKENSTEIN 1

Loony Literature is about being creative with literature.   It is about creative reading as well as creative writing.  As both a lover and graduate of this subject, I positively enjoy deconstructing texts from different points of view – that is what studying literature is about.  It is not about knowing every quotation from Shakespeare as non literary people often assume.  It is about taking a text and analysing and evaluating it whilst backing it all up with textual evidence.  We can add to our arguments by reading the text from a certain perspective e.g. a feminist or a Marxist point of view.  If we enjoy psychoanalytical theory we can use Lacan or even go down a Freudian route.  The possibilities are endless and as long as we can back our argument up with textual evidence, we are free to do this.  There is no right or wrong answer in literature – it is creativity heaven.

Much has been written about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; in fact, far too much to mention in this introduction.  I have been using the text as a springboard to write a play and workshops.  However, as all great pieces of fiction tend to do, it has demanded that I read it yet again from a totally different angle.

I love the fact that Frankenstein was written by a teenager.  The other detail about Mary Shelley which sits heavily in my consciousness is that her mother died through complications following her birth.  I am both daughter and mother.  The two relationships are entwined in my being like thread in tapestry.  I feel so much sympathy for Mary Shelley as a young girl growing up with only other people’s stories of her mother.

These two facts have made me read Frankenstein again.  I am going to read it as a subconscious cathartic writing exercise for Mary Shelley.  In other words, Shelley wrote herself as Frankenstein.  The monster is her dead mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.  As a teenager, Mary would read on her mother’s grave in St Pancras Churchyard.  The mother was beloved but unobtainable.  It is bad enough as a teenager when your parents do not seem to understand your emotional turmoil.  Mary did not simply have intentionally deaf ears to contend with but dead ears.  Mary needed to find a way to communicate her isolation. I believe that Frankenstein can be read as a letter from Mary Shelley to Mary Wollstonecraft.  How else can an abandoned daughter let her dead mother know what she went through whilst growing up without her?  Fundamentally, as the dead mother was a literary forerunner of her day, there was only one way to get such a mother’s attention and that was to create her own literary masterpiece.  Ironically, Mary Shelley conjured up her own dead mother in the position of abandoned child.

If the monster is supposed to portray her dead mother, why did she make him male?  We all know that women used to constantly die of childbirth in those days; by re-inventing her mother as male, she prevents this taking place.  She needs to keep her mother alive as she lives out the story of isolation Mary felt as a motherless child.

I am at the beginning of this reading of Frankenstein and hope that you will join me on the journey.  I will be making regular posts as I travel on my own new reading journey of Frankenstein.  My model for Frankenstein might not work out.  Ultimately, by offering a hypothesis and then writing a notebook on my reading, I hope that readers of the posts will come up with their own valuable insights.  If this works, I will tackle other delicious texts in the same way.  So let’s talk about Frankenstein.

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Filed under Frankenstein, Literary Criticism

6 Great Literary Outings For Kids and Teens.

Most of the time, we associate enjoying literature as sitting at home reading a book.  Reading should be an adventure though.  Here is a starter list which will get the young literary person out and about.

Visit a writer’s home.  I don’t mean that we should turn up at Jacqueline Wilson’s door and demand a cup of coffee.  I am thinking of places like Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived.  Sometimes, writers from the Victorian period can seem unreal or stuffy to young people.  However, when they visit their homes’ and see their clothes’, their manuscripts,’ and in the case of The Brontes, the room where some of them died, the writers become real.  I remember visiting Haworth as a teenager after reading “Wuthering Heights”, I was Catherine Earnshaw as I walked on the moors.

Visit a literary festival.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a huge established one like Cheltenham or a small local one which attracts four writers.  Literary festivals charm both kids and teens.  I will never forget seeing Anthony Horowitz in a marquee at the first ever Oxford Literary Festival.  I thought I had gone to a rock concert by mistake.  The placed was packed and the atmosphere was vibrant.  This was even before Horowitz appeared.  He came on dressed in all black with his hair slicked up.  Kids of all ages were wringing their hands with glee.  Two boys at the back of me giggled excitedly as they decided he was like a mad professor.  Literary festivals inspire children and events can cost as little as a few pounds, some are free.

The library is going to seem like an obvious choice.  The reason I have chosen it is, libraries can give children, particularly teenagers, autonomy.  My fourteen year old is constantly discovering new writers and people he wants to read about.  He goes onto the online library for the county and gets books on every subject possible sent to our village.  When the book arrives, he is notified by email.  He promptly pops around the corner and picks his goodies up.  He is independent.  It doesn’t cost anything and he feels in control.

I often choose books to read for their settings.  Creating a setting for reading can really enrich a child or teen’s book experience.  For instance, we used to live about fifteen minutes from a very quiet beach.  When my son was younger, we read Michael Morpurgo’s “Kensuke’s Kingdom” by the sea.  Okay, we weren’t on a desert island but  reading Kensuke’s Kingdom with the waves a few feet away, certainly made it feel like we were.  Nowadays, we go to English Heritage ruins and read Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories – we love it.

Follow a literary trail.  There are many established ones, for instance, Lincolnshire has one for Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  It can be more exciting though, if you do your own.  Research a writer from our literary heritage and plot the places to visit.  This can take place over the course of weeks and months.  When we start doing our research, we are often surprised by what has happened on our own doorsteps.

The last one is getting out and watching literature being performed.  Shakespeare and Marlowe wrote plays to be watched and not read.  Also, it demonstrates that literature can be a social event, we don’t have to enjoy it in isolation.  Look out for drama students performing, it won’t kill the budget and the energy is rejuvenating.  I recently watched six plays, performed by drama students, over the course of a weekend.  They were not only acting in them but had written and directed them.  I was impressed by the quality of their work and their enthusiasm energised me for days afterwards.

Enjoy your literary outing.

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Filed under Parenting

6 Great Reasons To Read To Teens.

Solitary reading is a recent pastime.  Traditionally, a book was read to an audience.  Since people could speak they have gathered around fires exchanging stories.  Wonderful family traditions can be built on communal reading – I read a Victorian ghost story to the family every Christmas Eve.  We sit by the fire in a candle lit room and collectively enjoy the atmosphere.  It’s very Charles Dickens.

Poster promoting reading by Charles Dickens in...

Poster promoting reading by Charles Dickens in Nottingham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great literature wrestles with difficult subjects.  Sometimes when we try discussing a subject with our teens, it can sound like we are preaching and our well meant words fall on ear phone ears.  However, when we read to our teens, difficult subjects arise naturally and we can talk about them as part of our reading experience.  For instance, in Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Doctor Jekyll takes chemical substances which change both his appearance and his behaviour.  In effect, it ruins his life.  When we chat with our teens about their opinion of Doctor Jekyll, we usually find that they have already made up their minds about him and his actions.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde po...

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde poster. Converted losslessly from .tif to .png by uploader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Schools do not have time to cover a full novel because of their tight curriculum.    At this point, I expect parents are wondering, who does have time to read a full novel to a teenager especially as they could read it themselves.  To cover the last point first, many great novels are being overlooked because teenagers are not being introduced to them.  Many teenagers read novels from our literary heritage because they have to to pass exams.  This gives out the wrong message about these great works of fiction.  If we offer lounging on the sofa, having a piece of cake and being introduced to the world of Laurie Lee’s “Cider With Rosie”, without having to write an essay on it, it’s an appealing proposition.  As for the time factor, reading sessions can replace: watching programmes which nobody really wants to watch, time spent complaining of boredom, time spent squabbling or staring at a computer screen because there seems nothing more interesting to do.

Cider with Rosie. This rather overgrown cider ...

Cider with Rosie. This rather overgrown cider press is just off the B4070, where the path leads up to Wickridge Hill. It's only a quarter of a mile from Slad where Laurie Lee, of "Cider with Rosie" fame was a regular at the Woolpack Inn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading to our teenagers aids bonding.  Before our children can read, most of us, read them bedtime stories at least.  The beaming child’s face gives us the sense of joy which only parenting can release. The child gets to a certain reading stage though and we feel that we no longer need to read to them.  Often, parents and teenagers can seem to grow apart because although they share a home, they live in different worlds.  Reading to our teenagers gives us something to share with them, therefore something to discuss.  I love Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, my teenage son doesn’t.  We have stimulating arguments about it.  It’s better than quarrelling over the fact that he hasn’t put his dirty socks in the wash.

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein's monster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading to our teens balances the relationship between child and parent as it empowers them to read to us.  If we read to them, after a while they will choose books, stories etc to read to us. It gives them self esteem and therefore balances the teenager/parent struggle.  Teenagers who have a sense of control in their lives are easier to live with.  Having their parents listening to their choice of literature gives them a feeling of autonomy.

Teenagers are the adults of the future and we need them to embrace our great literary heritage.  We need them to read to their future children.  By reading to our teens we are promoting a love and understanding of literature.  We are sending out the message “do as I do, not as I say.”

Happy reading.

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Filed under Education, Parenting