All posts by admin

Robert Walton’s Sieve of Nectar

The influence of Coleridge on Mary Shelley’s Characterization in Frankenstein

by Alyssa Rittinger

“Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, And Hope without an object cannot live”

(626, “Work Without Hope”)

“The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are not destroyed. Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess to bear this injustice with patience.”

(Frankenstein, 24.37)

It is reasonable to presume that Mary Shelley was, by some extent, inspired by the works of Samuel Coleridge. His works are alluded in various ways throughoutFrankenstein. From an interpretive stance, Robert Walton is often compared to the Wedding Guest of Coleridge’s disconsolate poem “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  There are so many correlations with the Ancient Mariner poem that are explicitly alluded in Frankenstein that further comparison cannot be avoided. But Coleridge’s emulation of characterized hopelessness is one of the more distinguishing factors that compares directly with Shelley’s novella.  The epigraphs highlight the two excerpts in such a way that perfectly encapsulates this thematic correlation.

Coleridge’s “Work Without Hope” is a poem that juxtaposes the speaker’s perpetual depression with the optimism of nature making its gradual return to spring.  As beautiful and purposeful as life appears, the speaker feels somehow set apart, as though still stuck in a winter wasteland where he wilts away into idle uselessness.  The speaker alludes to having lost his sense of purpose.  He has nothing to hope for, nothing to strive for.  The world just continues on without him.

Frankenstein similarly expounds on the emotional ramifications of men who are overzealous with their own ambition, all of which liken to this form of helplessness.  With Victor Frankenstein, his pride constitutes as a primary consequence for his downfall.  For the creature, his desperation for companionship ends up eliminating any chance he may have had (or, arguably, could never have) in securing a loving dynamic with a human being.  Robert Walton, interestingly enough, represents a bitter marriage of these two qualities.

Walton, as a tertiary character, may not seem all that relevant to the direct context of Frankenstein’s cataclysmic ordeal with his creation.  Yet Walton still narrates a significant portion of the novella. His reflections on the morbid tale are what bring thematic questions to the forefront of the story. There are questions of exploration, hubris, family, companionship, fatality, etc.  All of these circumnavigate the events of Frankenstein and his creature, and culminate in the form of Walton himself.  His inactivity seems to be his only safeguard from complete ruin; however, the yearnings he has are conspicuously and intricately aligned with that of Frankenstein and his monster.  Frankenstein and his monster had both lost everything worth living for, and thereby lost themselves in the process.  Walton, being the second-hand audience of their tribulation, feels overcome with his own internalizations.  Whether it’s out of mimicry or relatability, Walton suffers the contagion of the same helpless melancholy that afflicted both Frankenstein and the creature. In this way, the conclusion of Frankenstein’s tale represents a parabolic harbinger for the ambitious seafarer.

Unlike Frankenstein and the creature, however, Walton still has a life to live for.  He has a sister waiting for him back home, the promise of returning to a land of warmer weather instead of succumbing to an icy sea.  Yet despite these optimisms, Walton now feels “ignorant and disappointed.”  He seems almost willfully blinded by the fact that his life still bears the promise of beauty, renewal, and solace.  The tumult of Frankenstein affected Walton’s perception of the world and his place in it.

That being said, Walton won’t necessarily be stuck in this proverbial rut for long.  His emotions seem to sway in accordance to those he surrounds himself with.  He is even influenced by the members of his crew, who convince him to give up the trek through the arctic and return home.  Walton explicitly recognizes that he will forsake knowledge in favor of safety, which is the lesson that Frankenstein was unable to learn.  Walton may have little inhibition with keeping his heart on his sleeve.  But there’s a keen awareness there that ensures Walton’s capability to adapt as the situation dictates.  So while he may feel like his limitations render his voyage impossible, like “drawing nectar from a sieve,” Walton still has a life that he can live. A home to return to, to a sister he cares for.  He can find a new “object” to center his “hope” on in such a way that was no longer possible for Frankenstein.

A Passionate Defense of Genre Fiction

by Shelby Hallenbeck
This short essay was cross-posted from The Voracious Reader, the author’s literature blog. To find this piece and other works of hers, please visit
My boyfriend is a creative writing major at the same university as myself, and like me he’s preparing to wrap up his degree by taking a senior seminar course. The final project for the creative writing bachelor’s degree is, as one would expect, to write a long-form poetry or prose piece of your choice that reflects your own interests and style. There were, however, three limitations to what could be written:
1. No fantasy or sci-fi stories
2. No horror stories
3. No children’s literature
Naturally I have plenty to say about rule number three as a children’s literature major, but I’ll save that rant for another day. Now, I suppose that there could be a reason for these rules that makes sense logically (the professor isn’t familiar enough with certain genres, they’re harder to grade, etc.) but I can’t help but consider these limitations to be a reflection of the fact that we just don’t take certain genres of literature seriously. Despite the fact that some of our most brilliant social commentary comes from science fiction novels (the most famous examples being the ubiquitous 1984 and Fahrenheit 451) and that fantasy epics (Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, for instance) build a dense fan theory culture of their own, fantasy and science fiction novels are put in a separate space from “serious” works (science fiction is only taught as a 200-level intro course here at Eastern Michigan University, with no space for horror and fantasy novels), a few select classics aside. This isn’t to say that all genre fiction has something important to say; like all other types of novels there’s plenty of drivel to sort through, but by no means should we push certain genres aside due to a belief that they’re inherently cheesy. Or too popular. Or too shallow.
And yet despite numerous examples that yes, genre fiction can prove to have literary value while being massively popular, these novels are relegated to “guilty pleasure” status. In 2007, for instance, horror master Stephen King was named top guilty pleasure writer. In second place? J.K. Rowling, the author of a fantasy series so dense with biblical and literary references that entire books are dedicated to unpacking it. Another article asks “Should You Feel Bad About Reading Stephen King?”. I’ll tell you, dear reader, that as a literature major who just finished binge-reading IT and absolutely loving it, my answer is a resounding no. I will never feel guilty for reading Stephen King. Aside from the value of fun (which is sadly ignored by many), these horror novels, typically regarded as pulp, deal with more than one would think. IT, for instance, which follows a group of six adults who return to their childhood town to fight a monster that lurks in the sewers, asks whether or not you really can connect with your inner child and if imagination can be recaptured (there’s quite a bit more going on in the novel, but for the sake of brevity I highly recommend Mike Pace’s article “6 Reasons Why You Should Read Stephen King’s IT” to any interested readers), although more informed literary sources like Dwight Allen turn up their noses at these sorts of books.
Is there any solution to this relentless genre-fiction scorn, both in pop culture and the classroom? I have been lucky enough to watch my senior seminar class vote to read Ira Levin’s feminist sci-fi classic The Stepford Wives, and I’ll admit I’m pretty excited to see it picked apart in the college classroom. I can only dream that this is the start of a new trend, a slow shift into seeing some of my favorite novels being taken seriously.

A Slughorne Contribution

by Joshua Parker

When I was twelve years old my great grandfather passed away at the age of 96. For as long as I knew him he was living in an assisted living home, and slowly but surely deteriorating. My finial three memories of him are the last time I saw him, in which he insisted I was a girl, which wouldn’t have been so bad if my cousins were not there and tormented me with this fact until months later, the last time my mom saw him in which I refused to go because “I had better things to do”, and the day he died. My younger sister and I had just returned from school and I was eager to meet up with some friends and do twelve year old things. My mom called my sister and me into the living room and sat us down. This had never happened before and I was rather anxious. “Your great grandfather passed this morning, he was asleep, he didn’t suffer, do you have any questions?” My eyes welled for the man I had barely known. I choked and sob for my mistakes. I had never lost anyone until this point in my life and I had deemed my twelve year old life too important only weeks before to see him one last time. This is the moment I first felt empty. I left my house went to a friends and through a fog of events had my first fist fight. I tell you this because the empty feeling never really left. It isn’t constant but it wiggles its ugly face into my day to day often enough. It was particularly difficult when I was in high school, and my teenage angst added to the severity of my problems. When I was sixteen a friend of mine called my father and told him that she was afraid that I was going to hurt myself. That was the first time that he and I had a pleasant conversation in a long time (I had a lot of angst) , and it ended with an embrace, tears pouring from four eyes, and “I love you Josh.” Within a few weeks I was in therapy. That only lasted for a few months; it just is not for me. The reason for this confession is because books were and are my escape. The reason literature is important to me is because when I do not see a reason to get out of bed in the morning, or my chest feels hollow and as if it is one continuous mass at the same time I was able to escape into the words and worlds others had created. I could sit on the couch opposite my mom and dad and read a book. Books may have been enough to stop me from following through on my thoughts of suicide when I was a teen. Even now when I struggle to find a point in life I can lose myself for a while.

What One Makes of It


by Kaily Daida

There once was a wizard who gave each of the royal children a bag of tiny balls.


“Make of them what you will. Such is the characteristic bestowed upon your gift,” he said.


The eldest prince brought his black spheres to his artillery, where they learned to explode the balls from the ends of barrels. He brought down many foes and ruled his part of the kingdom with fear.


The eldest princess used her golden globes as a fiat currency. She stored the value of her land’s goods and services. Although they were objects without intrinsic value, her golden orbs became highly prized.


The second prince planted his brown balls in the soil and promoted the growth of plants. His land was the most bountiful in all of the kingdom.


The second princess illuminated the darkest alleys with her white marbles. From the shadows manifested the plights of orphans and widows. She destroyed the feudal system and built guilds of free people. A middle class developed and created a prosperous economy.


The last prince placed his red balls in glass cases and told his subjects that they were the eyes of god. His subjects worshiped his god dutifully.


The last princess used her green globes as a token of recognition. Possessors of a green ball were considered to be part of a distinguished society. She held secretive councils to discuss the affairs of the earthly and heavenly realms.


If you are reading this story, then you too have been given a bag of colored marbles. You hold the sovereignty to learn what you wish and say what you think. Through literacy, you can be an agere, someone that produces an effect. Literature is what one makes of it.

Is Mr. Darcy a Feminist?

by Jane Mandley

In all my younger years of loving Jane Austen, I have never doubted my equal—if not greater—love of Mr. Darcy. Then a critical feminist lens was adopted through my undergraduate years and I found myself swimming in a sea of literary theory and social critiques in academia. While having previously read five of the six completed novels cover to cover, most of my more recent Austen-indulgences came in the form of the films, and I began to question whether embracing period-romances was backtracking in my current feminist world—that is, one seeking for social, employment, political, etc. equality with men. Elizabeth Bennet, there can be no doubt, is the most celebrated of all of Austen’s heroines for her forward ways of thinking, speaking, and behaving that reinforce ideals of our modern woman who should be free to do as she pleases. But in the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth “succumbs” to traditional marriage. With a historical perspective of the reality that women’s financial security rested solely on men in Austen’s day, a modern, feminist audience cannot blame Elizabeth for making due with what her world has to offer. However, her choice of husband can still be critiqued. Is Mr. Darcy truly worthy of such a woman as Elizabeth?—or in other words, is Mr. Darcy all he’s cracked up to be? Through a close reading of feminist attitudes toward women in the novel, Darcy proves to not only become a progressive husband by the end, but solidifies this non-traditional treatment of wives and marriage by his actions and statements throughout the entire novel.

Make up the breakup

by Zachary Green

And I don’t think you should lie to me with any nature poems
because you know you don’t think sand is beautiful
unless you are in a good mood, which you never are


That sweet spot in a relationship where y’all fit together like an old pair of shoes,

you may lack a sole or general structural integrity,

smell bad from the years of decay and sweat, and you might not like being seen in public with one another,

but hey they are always there when you get home.


On donor recipients and love: I read once that cross gender organs fail at almost the same rate as cross species organs. This is because the hearts of men and women are intrinsically different.