Through a Glass Darkly: Reading"Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" through Literary Lenses

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SWBAT analyze passages from Frankenstein and deduce which literary lens best fits each passage.

Big Idea

"A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face." --Edward P. Morgan

Lesson Context and Time Frame

This is Lesson 3 in the Frankenstein unit. In this lesson students learn about the framework for five literary theories:

  • Romantic
  • Gothic
  • Feminist
  • Sociological/psychological
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy

Next, students analyze passages from Frankenstein to determine which theory best applies to each passage.

Students then share their responses and randomly select a lens through which to read Frankenstein.

To assist students in remembering their theory and to provide a reminder that is ever present in the classroom, I have a poster of the handout I provide them hanging on a bulletin board in the classroom: Critical Lens Poster

Lens Crafters: An Overview of Five Theoretical Perspectives

25 minutes

To introduce students to the theoretical lenses, I give each of them the handout Lit Crit Chart. As I read through each one, students have the opportunity to ask questions. Additionally, I offer them questions to answer as I work through the document w/ them. 

To further assist students, I use the document camera and show them how to add notes to their work. Document Camera Note Taking.mp4 offers some benefits to using the document camera for this purpose. 

When we come to the term grotesque in the Romantic column, I take a moment to explain the literary term to students and give them an example that I hope is familiar to them from their junior year. I tell students

A grotesque in literature is a character who has a physical quirk or deformity that the author uses to highlight a psychological or moral depravity in the character. For example, in Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Life You Save May be Your Own," the character Mr. Shiftlet is described as "a crooked cross" because his arm is missing. Through this image of a deformed Jesus, O'Connor shows us Mr. Shiftlet's moral depravity. He marries the mentally challenged Lucynelle so that he can get her mother's old car, and then he abandons her and takes off in the car. O'Connor ends the story: "Be careful how you drive, the life you save may be your own."

Through a Process of Deduction Students Analyze "Frankenstein"

30 minutes

After completing the review of the literary critical lenses, I invite students to practice analyzing passages from Frankenstein to see how each passage relates to the various lenses.

Theoretical Lenses Quotes includes the passages students analyze. 

First, they work alone. After 20 minutes, I invite them to discuss and compare their work with a partner.

Through their deductive reasoning, students learn to cross-references the characteristics of each critical theory and ask questions about how each applies to Frankenstein

Re-Visioning "Frankenstein": Students Share Their Analysis

20 minutes

Finally, students share their responses. Student Deduction of Passage to Lens (1) and Student Deduction of Passage through Critical Lens (2) and Student Analysis of Passage through Theoretical Lens (3) shows some of the students' work.

The discussion begins w/ the first passage. A volunteer offers an answer and follows this by an explanation for the answer. Next, students have an opportunity to challenge the answer and to give reasons for the alternative theory. 

We continue this rotation without giving students the "answer." This is because, there aren't necessarily right and wrong answers. Students need to justify their responses. Some begin to see that in its totality Frankenstein is gothic and romantic; thus, finding examples of these two lenses, both of which are genres, is easy. 

Lastly, I remind students that as they read they need to mark passages that magnify their assigned lens.