Was Darwin a Creationist
OPTION ONE: FRANKENSTEIN
Focus on the theme or issue of the family or intimate relations in the novel, and make the scene(s) when the monster hangs out in the woodshed spying on the
impoverished family central to or important for an interpretation of the novel. It may be that you start right off in your introduction establishing why the monster’s
interaction with the cottage family is crucial to our understanding of the novel’s overall meaning; it may be that you look almost exclusively at just the cottage
scenes in terms of how the monster’s sensibility expands or grows; or it may be that you establish a sequence/trajectory of broader or more encompassing ideas in which
you use the cottage episode or refer to it specifically only ½ or 2/3rd of the way through your paper. It is possible, as you develop your ideas, that the family
theme becomes subordinate to another theme (e.g., Victor’s ambition). That’s fine.
For a more elaborate example of the last point: say you think the novel is mainly about Victor’s inability to maintain connection with his family (because of his
ambition or ego). Certainly the scenes in which the monster wants to be part of the cottage family would be key or linked to that main idea–but you might not review
the pertinent scenes as evidence until midway in your paper; you would, presumably, start by showing how Victor is alienated, by his ambition, from his own family.
Your paper might be about alienation from family structure or dynamics, with a key piece of evidence/interpretation being the cottage scene.
Literary analysis requires a shaping idea or theme or thesis, spelled out or implied in your opening paragraph or opening paragraphs (an introduction can be longer
than one paragraph!). But unlike some other forms of analysis, the KEY scene that the analysis hooks around, if there is one key scene, might not be trotted out in
your analysis until midway through. Interpretation of literature–that is, somebody reading YOUR interpretation–can become fun because it is a process of discovery,
an inductive argument that builds complexity upon complexity, rather than a deductive argument by which you state the main point, and then follow up with subpoints and
evidence. (See a review of inductive and deductive analysis in the instructions for the first essay: the first “builds up” an argument, the second “breaks it down”.)
Here is a sample organizational roadmap for a hypothetical essay on Frankenstein, using the topic above:
–1st 5th: author’s anxieties about family/mothering/nurturing
–2nd 5th: translates into a narrative about education and family structures needed for education/development of a sensibility
–3rd 5th: Victor’s alienation from his family; seeking of knowledge at the cost of sacrificing relationships
–4th 5th: what other critics have said on these issues + monster’s take on education (cottage scene)
–5th 5th: the consequences of a bad or interrupted education for the monster
Please do not overly rely (i.e. you can rely somewhat) on above to structure your paper if you elect this option. I’m offering it so that you see the pattern of
how analysis can proceed in stages.
Secondary material links:
Go to the main online page for FIU Libraries, click on the link to connect from home (if you are working from home), click on “Find Articles and Do Research” link,
find the “A-Z” list of electronic journals/resources, find the electronic journal database “Project Muse,” do a search using the terms (without quote marks)
“Frankenstein family” or “Frankenstein parents,” and choose what seem to be the most pertinent two articles, for your purposes, from the among the first 10 or so
OPTION TWO: DARWIN
Darwin–a moderately devout man himself, although increasingly doubtful as he grew older–well knew that Origin of Species would be attacked upon various grounds,
especially for its supposed impiety. In what ways do you see Darwin anticipating a less than receptive audience, an audience that will feel its traditional beliefs
are being challenged? You might consider not only the sequence of chapters (why does he begin with domestic or artificial selection?), but also specific passages
(e.g., the famous “Tree of Life” passage on page 74 or the concluding passage on pages 120-121). How do you account for Darwin’s fairly frequent recourse to
adjectives such as “wonderful” or “beautiful” when speaking of adaptations? Do not simply answer these questions one after another; I’m offering them as brainstorming
tools to help you get ideas, not as paint-by-numbers questions that you “fill in” in your actual paper. You need to devise your own thesis about Darwin’s book (not
just Darwin himself or evolutionary theory), and select suitable quotes. Ideally, your paper should show that you understand 1) the relationship of Darwin’s theory to
the intellectual currents of the historical period in which he was writing (read the lecture notes!), 2) Darwin’s basic argument in his book, and 3) the strategic or
rhetorical ways in which he conveys his argument in his book. Again, do not just mechanically “answer” the previous 1,2,3: the basic goal is to show you understand
how Darwin’s specific book—the content of the treatise and the way he presents that content–relates to and responds to its intellectual/cultural context.
Again, ponder stages of analysis, including historical context. Your paper might not even begin talking about Darwin or his book per se (except for your intro.,
until page three or so).
Secondary material links:
Link #1. Go to the main online page for FIU Libraries, click on the link to connect from home (if you are working from home), click on “Find Articles and Do
Research” link, find the “A-Z” list of electronic journals/resources, find the electronic journal “Project Muse,” and do a search to find this essay: Cosans, Chris
Was Darwin a Creationist?
Link #2. Also use “Project Muse” to find this essay: Campbell, John Angus
Why Was Darwin Believed? Darwin’s Origin and the Problem of Intellectual Revolution