Friday, January 20, 2012

Prompts for Shelley / Wilson, Part 2

Prompt #1:  I have often used variants of this question in other classes, and usually been at least somewhat unhappy with the results.  However, I think it will work this time around.

Short version:  "Is the monster human?"

Explanation:  The reason this simple question often leads to weak or underdeveloped writing is that people tend to give very little attention to the great complexity and difficulty of defining what it means to be human in a way that stands scrutiny.  But we are in a special position - we're reading a book which is about human nature!  Therefore, you should define what human means by using Wilson.  That doesn't mean you agree with him - that means you start either with a definition from Wilson, or a definition that intelligently challenges or argues with Wilson, then answer the question.

Prompt #2: 

Short version:  "Is the monster a hero or a villain?"

Long version:  Of course, it's possible to say that he's neither one, but some combination of the two.  In any case, you should be clear on what you mean by hero or villain, and how understanding the monster as hero or villain helps us understand not only him, but the novel as a whole, or perhaps Victor.  If you believe that the monster is neither or both a hero or a villain, that's not an excuse to be vague, but an opportunity to express and detail a clear alternative.

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