Big Gestures: An Epidemic?

For another class I’m preparing to give a lesson on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As I’m throwing together my PowerPoint slides for my imaginary class, I start thinking how I’m going to begin the lesson. My teacher brain kicks in:

okay well before we even touch the novel, the students need to be situated in the genre. Frankenstein occurs towards the end of Romanticism, in the golden age of Gothic literature. Come to think of it, I think Frankenstein is a nice hybrid of the two genres- it’s full of horror and death but riddled with SO much human emotion. So let’s start by teaching them a little bit about both. Well how did Romanticism come to be? It started with Goethe’s infamous forbidden love story in which Werther pines after Charlotte, who is promised to another man. Unsurprisingly, Werther dies of a broken heart and do we roll our eyes at this love sick man baby? Of course not! We regard him as a victim of love, a brave soul who perished at the feet of his beloved, unattainable Charlotte. 

After that thought process I contemplated: why the hell does our culture emphasize such big, dramatic gestures?

To supplement the introduction lecture on the two genres I plan on showing some famous movie scenes in which characters confess their love for one another in showboatty fashion. This video exemplifies romantic literature in how the characters are publicly, shamelessly honest about their passions. One video I’ve already selected is Heath Ledger’s singing performance to win over Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Weigh in on my deliberations. Why do we value the drama? Why do we live in an age of million dollar weddings and fucking promposals? In what ways does poetry come into play when we talk about this human tendency to consume things that are emotionally-unveiling, often ostentatious, and screaming-i-love-you-in-the-rain expressive?

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