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Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College

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Inspiration by Mary Shelley

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After viewing the archives online, I definitely would prefer to see them in person. I decided to look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein notebooks. I found them fascinating. Seeing her handwriting and her edits make me appreciate having access to a word processor! It made me think about how those who did not live during the handwriting era are not familiar with that experience; and, therefore, do not view the notebooks with the same appreciation as those who have written a great deal by hand. Mary Shelley’s word choices and sentence deletions give me a sense of her skills as a writer. Even in 1816, there was a great deal of revision, revision, and more revision! Examining the writing, I wonder what type of pen Shelley used to write in her notebook. I found myself trying to figure out if she wrote in a hurry as to catch all of her ideas; or, did she take her time? Having seen the notebook, the handwriting, and the revision makes Shelley seem much more present. Seeing the work allows us to see the process as well as reinforces the image of a committed author as she writes a timeless classic. I’ve never taken the time to read Frankenstein, but after viewing the archives I’ve decided to add it to my reading list!

I imagine that advantages of archival data include having the information located all in one place (i.e. Building or website); the information is accessible—permission is not needed to view; and, archival information can be used to track changes in field of study as the archives are historical in nature. The struggles of archival research may include having found out the information you are looking for is not available; or, it may be available, but difficult to decipher. Also, perhaps the archival research is not online making it take longer to find the documents you need—travel may be required. Lastly, there may be archival information written by the author you are researching but the information available is not of any use to you.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein Ch. 2 Archive

Mary Shelley: A Biography

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A soothing soul

It was a hot summer day, where the sun was so bright one would feel as if the light would make them blind. However, life on the other hand wasn’t so bright; stress and emotional drama was a constant in my life and despite the beaming sun the day still felt dull and gloomy. It was one of those days where I was in a state of self-war, where everything just seemed unreasonable and incomprehensible, leading to sleepless nights. I was busy doing my work during the day time and upholding the façade of a happy strong girl, however, at night I was doing extra shifts of self-exhaustion by over thinking and continuing the ritual of self loathe and pity that I had started a couple of months earlier. On a daily basis continuing the façade became challenging. With a much needed break from all the thinking, I decided to go down to the beach along with a few of my friends. The trip to the beach was a form of diversion from all the stress. I was hoping it would be an escape from ME. The me that wouldn’t let me take risks and the me that always played safe. With the anticipation that I would be busy with friends, I didn’t think I would have the time to go back into self-pity mode and some how get thrown back into the dark corner that I always end up in. The corner that lets life take over and buries me from facing all of my problems. It’s a corner that engulfs you for days and to be pulled out would mean the need to have a lot of mental strength and power that I feared I did not have.

As I left school, I met up with my friends not anticipating anything from the day, especially not the freedom I would receive from myself. As soon as I arrived at the beach all I saw was the blue ocean in front of me, and not a single person besides my friends. At this very moment I felt at somewhat peace. Knowing I was in a place where I was not allowed to be, made me feel defiant and the selfish part of me didn’t want to leave. I sat down and decided to take in the view, and despite being with eleven other people it still felt quiet and peaceful as if it were just me and the beach. As I sat down, I took in the gentle but cold breeze and let my mind go to rest, away from my worries and away from my restless soul. I was in a state of zen where everything I was worried about just felt frivolous and cold. Despite being in a cold and abandoned area, it felt warm and welcoming. Nature felt as a mother, soothing and singing a lullaby to calm my restless soul. The soft sand felt as a mother’s hug and the soft waves were as if it was trying to sympathize and comfort me. Nature was a father. The soft breeze, protecting me from the evil of my own thoughts, by blowing the insecurities away. I didn’t feel confided in a small cage anymore. I felt more at ease and, for the first time in a long time, comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like I was living in an intangible universe. I felt like I belonged. I felt at home.

(If you would like to visit the beach: https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fdr-boardwalk-and-beach/highlights/12257

A yelp page with similar experiences regarding the beach(not all of them are however.): https://www.yelp.com/biz/midland-beach-staten-island )

Back to the Concrete Jungle

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This is actually near my old place. Image by www.trulia.com

I spent about a few years living in Pennsylvania. I remember being about five or so when we moved into a little townhouse on the side of a mountain. It didn’t mean much to me then, but in hindsight, that’s pretty wild. I could just look up and see more of the mountain range in the distance. I remember, even then, how small and inconsequential I felt. Obviously, as an adult, I can verbalize much better how startling the contrast was. But there’s something beautiful about a feeling that you can’t quite or don’t want to put into words.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ve always associated my childhood with the backwoods of Saw Creek, Pennsylvania much more than the concrete jungle of NYC I was birthed in.

Maybe it was the air. It was always sweet and fragrant.

Maybe it was the tap water. Nah, just I’m just clowning. That tasted pretty bad.

Maybe it was the stars that winked at me during the night. They were comically vivid.

Maybe it was the array of wildlife I saw. Deer would come onto the lawn.

Maybe it was all of these things. Maybe it was none of them. This was more than fifteen years ago, after all. My memories could just be distorted and all.

But I distinctly remember a creek behind the place we rented out. Compared to the only other natural body of water I had seen at the point in my life, Jones Beach, the difference was startling. I could see right through. The sunlight glinting off the fish. The little pebbles buried deep into the bedrock. I’d see people walking down the road with their catch of the day.

Nothing was ever rushed. If anything, we were the odd ones out. No one else locked their doors, and that made us the strange ones. Weird shit, right?

It was a slow life there. A peaceful one. A good one, even. If you were into having nature as your backyard. This is the kind of place Ralph Waldo Emerson would’ve advertised for his whole ‘return to nature’ thing.

But honestly, at this point in my life, I don’t see myself ever going back. It was just too stagnant. Maybe it’s the pollution here that’s messed with my mind. I like to think it’s the bomb-ass food and that sense of urgency only NYC has.

Saw Creek, Pennsylvania is where I see people going to live out their lives and die. And I don’t feel I’m quite there yet.

I guess I’m happy that I’ve traded the natural landscape, animals, and wood nymphs back for tall buildings, expensive cigarettes, and the godawful MTA (still way better than the NICE buses to LI, though).

I don’t see myself leaving the concrete jungle anytime soon.

nyc
Image by Kate Kendall

 

 

 

 

 

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