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There are really two main "dreams" in Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein novel: Victor Frankenstein's daydream about the grand future effects of his creating artifical life and the nightmare into which he falls after he recoils from his finished creature in revulsion and exhaustion. This second dream, quite complex, has become the subject of many interpretations, particularly in the twentieth century. Even so, I raise a number of questions that these previous readings have not answered and show how the rest of the essays in this collection respond to those in new and striking ways. In recounting the most influential existing interpretions, I also show how many profound cultural and psychological issues are raised by both of Victor's dreams, especially his nightmare about embracing his dead mother. As a result, the newer interpretations offered here address some major unresolved quandaries in the history of Western culture. Mainly through the work of my fellow contributor's, then, we collectively offer new insights about long-standing issues in the West: the relationship between sentimentality and sadism, the role and nature of parody in human creativity, the need for several radical repressions for the enforcement of a patriarchal society, and the parallels between dream-language and the movement between images in modern motion pictures. Because of the questions raised by these readings, as well as in Frankenstein's dream, these essays claim, we are thrown back on and must therefore confront the most basic ways in which Western self-representation has occured over the last several centuries.
July 2003


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Wordsworth's Route Over the Simplon in 1790

August, 2001
In August 2001, Roger Meyenberg and Patrick Vincent hiked Wordsworth's route over the Simplon Pass, as described in Book VI of The Prelude. Their goal was to establish, of several reconstructed versions of the hike, which route Wordsworth and Robert Jones most likely followed. Includes their narrative and photographs of the pass today.

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Brewer, "The Liberating and Debilitating Imagination in Joanna Baillie's Orra and The Dream"

Of Joanna Baillie’s two tragedies on the passion of fear, Orra has received far more attention than The Dream and the two dramas have seldom been compared, even though they are both set in the fourteenth century in or near Switzerland, feature imprisonments and escape attempts, and contain scenes of Gothic terror. Orra and The Dream contest essentialist conceptions of gender and suggest that patriarchal control is dependent on superstition and terrorism. Moreover, Baillie’s plays on fear indicate that in the struggle against paternalistic repression, alert pragmatism is less imaginative but more effective than fearful utopianism.


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