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Marked for POLITICAL JUSTICE

On this day in history, I found myself awake at 7 in the morning after a vicious all-nighter writing a defense of my will-be POLITICAL JUSTICE tattoo as an assignment for my graduate Foundations course. I was trying desperately to not sound like a schmuck, even though only a total douchecanoe would ever get a tattoo based off anything William Godwin ever penned.

The result was a composition completely necessary to share with an outside audience that will probably appreciate my intentions more than my professor who I’m convinced can’t stand me (most probably because of the assignment from the very beginning of the semester where I adamantly derided ‘library science libraries’ for the vestigial elitist boys’ club lodges they are).

In summer 2012 I beheld a unique and unforgettable privilege:

First and foremost, I was studying at Oxford. I, who in all of my youth spent in an island community grimly/affectionately dubbed “The Rock,” never anticipated a college education–let alone an advanced graduate degree at an internationally prestigious university.

Secondly, at said university I was entitled and encouraged to utilize the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest, largest reference facilities in Europe at my whim and necessity. Second-and-a-halfly, I was furthermore entitled and encouraged to seek out and handle original print works and manuscripts at my whim and necessity.

My immediate goal upon arriving in Oxford was to locate and rendezvous with the Frankenstein manuscript, which I knew to also be arriving in England from the American east coast (granted, from the distinct opposite corner of the Mason-Dixon) within the same time-span after its prolonged stay on display at the New York Public Library. Because of this time frame, the manuscript was not yet locatable on-site when I first arrived at the reference desk of the Duke Humfrey’s, though I was permitted to leave my name and email. Two days and apparently-dozens-of-fwd’d emails later, I finally received a much-down-the-line receipt from the head of Special Collections, Dr. Bruce Barker-Benfield (hereafter abbreviated to B^3). Dr. B^3 was not only in possession of the manuscript, but more than willing and gracious to facilitate my encounter with it.

To call my appointment in the attic of the Clarendon building with the pale, powder blue pages nestled in an acid-free shallow “shoebox” containing the manuscript “life-changing” would be a disgusting understatement. Dr. B^3’s modest passion for Shelleyana (excessive knowledge and only with the purest intention to share it) was riveting, inspiring, provoking—all of the above. His humble suggestions of where to grow and how to utilize the existing printed sources to their fullest capability outside of the Bodleian walls, promising that I could take my research back across the pond with me did everything to fulfill my prophecy of Shelley research—and thensome.

If the plot twist is that Dr. B^3 is my Uncle Ben, then I want off this ride.

If the plot twist is that Dr. B^3 is my Uncle Ben, then I want off this ride.

The necessity of my librarianship is to do the utmost justice to the persons devoted to the preservation and perseverance of knowledge and artifacts of knowledge within their facility (in being accountable for the objects themselves and responsible for their disclosure to inquiring parties of all backgrounds—even little ol’ metal-faced me) and beyond the walls of the library (by enabling clients with extensive digitized/electronic and commercially affordable print resources, as well as an invitation to continue email correspondence outside of appointment for unique expertise).

My desire is to work within sectors and initiatives dedicated to de-mystifying, even dismantling barred knowledge that serves absolutely no one in being barred. While objects may be best preserved in cool, dark spaces with minimal contact, such measures do absolutely nothing to fulfill the living humanities. Facsimiles and digitizations are more-than-ever necessary for the endurance a learned public.

My librarianship is 110% devoted to total transparency, self-sacrificing public service without discrimination, and dedicated maintenance and accountability. Open-and-extended access, librarianship outside of the library, is fundamental. While I was permitted the privilege of the Bodleian (and will once again be renewing my pink card in summer 2014), not every would-be-patron will, nor will they, by virtue, experience the compassionate outreach of Dr. B^3, or perhaps let-alone even more humbly “accessible” professionals that may be taken for granted.

In my litany of to-be tattoos, my most-oft-daydreamed is my will-be chest piece to brandish POLITICAL JUSTICE in bold, serif lettering at the hem of my clavicle. The placement is somewhat loud and abrasive (especially when considering that the piece will be imprinted on my body after my prospective top surgery, in defiance of heteronormative expectations of my body), as is the intent.

The statement is a shorthand form of An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, the anarchist tract outlining Mary Shelley’s radical father’s philosophies in total transparency, direct democracy and the dismantling of privileged institutions, seminally defined as noting how: “Enquiry, and the improvement of the human mind, are now shaking to the center those bulwarks that have so long held mankind in thraldom.”

"Cooled down" is a euphemism for "became a bag of dicks," sidenote.

“Cooled down” is a euphemism for “became a bag of dicks,” sidenote.

While Godwin’s radicalism cooled down considerably after settling down, he did very much hold strictly to his core beliefs in unrestricted access to knowledge and self-improvement by enabling and encouraging his young daughters to educate themselves utilizing the Godwin home library and to apply their knowledge in lectures and debates among esteemed contemporary intellectuals who also happened to be family friends.

The immediate result was Mary Shelley nee Godwin’s thoroughly sculpted magnum opus and the object of my passions. The extended heritage is the Halloween 2013 launch of the Shelley-Godwin archive, an immense undertaking in cross-platform collaboration in the quest, in the words of project director Neil Fraistat, to “create, in the archives, a platform for participatory curation and encoding of our manuscripts,” said manuscripts including the original and printed works of all of the principal parties of the Shelley circle which now exist at mouse-click public access totally free.

This prospective tattoo is the most apt and fulfilling representation of my afore-described philosophy of librarianship and my ongoing journey in knowledge access and preservation.

The fact that I determined that this tattoo was destined to imprint my skin after laughing so hard that I choked at its being the repeated anthem in Shared Experience’s production of the life of Mary Shelley is completely incidental and totally sentimental.

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No Bad Frankensteins

Like some of the less fickle denizens of the internet, I stand by the majority of what I post once it has been posted (and then proceed to perma-trash everything that isn’t relevant or flattering to my person–like my old myspace). One such truth eternally bonded to digital space is this tweet:

Since the casting announcement of I, Frankenstein, I’ve consistently received inquiries on “my thoughts” on the project. “My thoughts” more often than not, though, are gauged to be provoked-and-anticipated corroborations with the inquirer’s presumption that I should disdain the I, Frankenstein project.

“Don’t you think he’s too sexy?”

“Doesn’t it bother you that they’re calling the monster ‘Frankenstein’?”

“Are you looking forward to this at all?”

Frankenstein as an action movie?”

Of course, my overwhelming response is:

One, because I refuse to pass any kind of judgment on the quality of I, Frankenstein as a project until I’ve actually seen the movie, and two, because my singular, unique opinion really doesn’t encompass any kind of authority over the quality of I, Frankenstein as a piece in the Frankenstein canon!

Because while I do possess a vast encompassing knowledge of most things within the all-consuming Shelley Circle and have essentially sworn my life to all things Frankencentric (which leads to people reaching out to me to recommend me to Frankenkitsch more than anything–which is much appreciated), I most certainly don’t carry a thermometer to actively measure the “goodness” or “badness” of Frankensteinia (or any kind of affirmative authority over anything Frankenrelevant, though I am flattered that my observations are so personable!).

This is, of course, not to say that there haven’t been some particularly schlocky/goofy/terribad manifestations within the heritage of Mary Shelley’s hideous progeny, but those qualities of “goodness” versus “badness” have–or shouldn’t have—next to nothing to do with what those terms more often euphemistically refer to as “canon” versus “uncanon

(Although, let’s be real, Victor the necrophiliac is defo canon to the 1818 text and only became moreso in the 1831 revision—and then even moreso in NIN’s infamous “Closer” video.)

Very early on in its printed lifetime, Frankenstein became one of the most sought after, cited and adapted works of fiction—not genre/horror/Gothic fiction, but overall consumable literature contemporaneous to its time period and beyond. Within five years of hitting mixed-but-strongly-passionate critical reviews, play performances hit the stages and there-after “novelizations” of the staged versions. At home and abroad, pressings and stagings reached audiences across the social strata, as high as Parliamentary politicians and American abolitionist leaders and as common as the voyeurs of the “burlesques” of the era. Everyone knew Frankenstein, both the Creature and the Scientist, whether intimately through the novel or through the casual word-of-mouth of common talk, of political cartoons. And if they didn’t know Frankenstein, they would be urged by fans and ultimately scholars who sought to canonize the text, establishing its permanence in popular culture as intensely as its titular characters, well even before its centennial, deigning it a place of honour in everyman classics and classrooms alike.

Frankenstein‘s immediate and long-term appeal lies in factors as minimalist as the conscious choice to never confirm a singular identity to the Creature: branded a “daemon,” a “wretch,” a “monster” as well as an “insect,” but also self-identified as “Adam” and as “Satan” while also emulating the First Woman of Eden and the Other Woman of the DeLacey idyll. The Creature is every single one of those things and also disputably none of those things, depending on what page you’ve landed upon within the novel, or what film adaptation turns on your screen or what staging presents itself to you.

In her Cultural History, Susan Tyler Hitchcock succinctly surmises that the story as a whole is “on the one hand so true as to be universal and, on the other, malleable enough to conform to different times, places, peoples and moments in history.” Any individual can pick literally any variable within the book and make a valid defense in the case of X, Y, or Z in what Susan Wolfson and Ron Levao have dubbed in their still fresh but already outdated Annotated Frankenstein as a “range of implication.” Literally thousands of iterations of Jungian, Freudian, feminist, queer, racial, post-colonial, socialist, anarchist, imperialist, …. readings exist, and infinitely more, all at one co-existing, contradictory and complementary, will emerge—if one is to trust the mere existence of these emerging genealogies since Steven Earl Forry’s Hideous Progenies, let alone the very fact that there is to be an upcoming new movie adaptation of the Frankenstein story.

*All* persons who interact with Frankenstein are amateur manipulators, not unlike Victor himself.

This is it, this is the post.

This is it, this is the post.

We the readers, the viewers, the writers, the artists, the scholars are all given fractured parts in a composite story with only partial recognition of what those parts are and could be. The rest is up to us to piece together. And contrary to the self-righteous stream of tweets and tumblr postings of newly initiated AP Lit/Lang students, Frankenstein is not exclusively the name of the sole pale student bent over his creation on that dreary November night, just as it is no longer exclusively the novel penned by the heiress (and prowess) of authorship, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Nor is there a fucking buzzer noise telling you how wrong you are in your surgery, else I would have never signed up for this.

Nor is there a fucking buzzer noise telling you how wrong you are in your surgery, else I would never never signed up for this shit.

Tl;dr, I’m not going to tell you what I think of I, Frankenstein until it hits theaters. And even if it doesn’t hit my sensibilities as a movie-goer, it can’t fail my expectations as a piece of Frankensteinia.

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