Sunday, August 13, 2006
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Joyless reading. What interests me in a novel is always the discourse. The story keeps me going, but the discourse keeps me there. Around the start of the 19th century –Jane Austen, let us say- a shift occurs in the nature of novel writing, in the balance between story and discourse. The discourse becomes more interesting and something to be enjoyed in its own right, the story almost becomes a vehicle for the discourse. The shift is from narrative to language. In 18th century novels the discourse is the mode of conveyance for the story, seldom anything more. Shelley is a conservative writer and writes in the 18th century mold. Jane Austen was a radical modern in this context, writing forwards. In Frankenstein I find myself turning the pages to get to the next stage in the plot, the next jerk forward in the action. The discourse is full of cliché, nothing is visualized, nothing felt. Of course it is a parable, and it is in the nature of parables that they be boring.