Frankenstein Essays

Shelley does represent her own mother; her complex frame narrative contains, at five removes from the outer frame (Walton's letters), the story of a woman very like Mary Wollstonecraft.

Subsequent versions of the Frankenstein myth in popular culture tend to repress the female (as Victor refuses to create a bride for this creature); she may appear, however, in the proliferation of horror movies about mummies.

[go to Rieder's essay] Marc Redfield, "Frankenstein's Cinematic Dream" In this essay, Marc Redfield weaves together readings of Shelley's novel and of James Whale's 1931 film, arguing that in different ways both texts make legible a certain monstrousness of vision and figuration.

The film renders the monster hypervisible as an image in, and of, the age of mechanical reproducibility, and as an uncanny icon of the "cinematic." Shelley's novel provides an implicit critique of the fantasy of seeing-itself-seeing that animates Whale's film by suggesting that the act of seeing cannot be isolated from the unreliable performativity of figurative language.

Frankenstein, in the way it treats its antecedent texts, suggests that parody in the Romantic era is less antagonistic than is often assumed.

[go to Van Winkle's essay] John Rieder, "Patriarchal Fantasy and the Fecal Child in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and its Adaptations" This essay tries to account for the power that gives Mary Shelley's Frankenstein its unusual place in literary and cultural history.

The secret of life is a "sudden light" that breaks in on Victor, obliterating his own understanding of the cognitive processes that got him to the point of illumination.

He cannot tell his secret to Walton because the secret posseses him; his understanding and his act never catch up with each other.

[go to Williams's essay] Matthew Van Winkle, "Mocking Stupendous Mechanisms: Romantic Parody and Frankenstein's Dream." Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, often read as an indictment of Romantic excess, instead takes a parodic stance that opens up a critical distance on conventionally Romantic attitudes even as it maintains a familiarity that precludes wholesale dismissal.

The novel takes its place in an alternative Romantic tradition that reads literary activity as inherently parodic, in which authors create not out of a void but from a chaos of pre-existing texts.


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