Literary Anniversaries: 30 August

Frankenstein Book CoverThere are two important anniversaries today: again a birth and a death.  In 1797 Mary Shelley was born, and in 2013, Seamus Heaney died.

Let’s start by looking at Shelley.  Daughter of an important thinker, wife of a rebellious poet, and creator of one of the most profound novels ever written at the tender age of only 18.  Like so many classical (and especially gothic) works, we generally think we know the story but find, on reading, that the work is completely different.

Frankenstein (or the modern Prometheus) is such an important and deep book.  It covers so many fundamental issues:  God vs. Man; Good vs. Evil; Parents vs. Children; Nature vs. Nurture; Science vs. Religion; love; hatred; obsession; and revenge.  There seems to be something new to find in every reading.  Above all, I find it a desperately sad tale – very resonant today – about judging people on their appearance alone.  And the SF Nerd in me recognises that many people date the birth of the genre from the 1818 publication of Frankenstein …

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I love this cover, reminding me of Grendel's lair in the swamps ...

I love this cover, reminding me of Grendel’s lair in the swamps …

Then we should move on to Heaney, well-known to pupils across the country for poems such as ‘Digging‘.  I want to mention that he was also a scholar of Old English, and like JRR Tolkien, produced a translation of the epic heroic poem, Beowulf.  Like Frankenstein and his creature, the monsters in Beowulf: Grendel, his terrible mother, and the dragon, have become part of our collected consciousness.  You certainly should have a go at either Heaney or Tolkien’s translations …

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English Teacher; Shakespeare Geek; Science Fiction Nerd; Adult Fan Of Lego (AFOL); Scrabble Warrior; Television Refusenik. Above all, READER ...

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