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Frankenstein 1


Frankenstein 1 Outline Dominance of the new realism Repression of the Gothic The subversiveness of Frankenstein Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein Dominance of the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Frankenstein 1

Frankenstein 1
  • Dominance of the new realism
  • Repression of the Gothic
  • The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein

Dominance of the new realism
  • WSs re-positioning of the novel through a
    re-gendering of the genre of fiction in W
  • The triumph of realism over romance
  • Emergence of Waverley as a new type of realist
    hero moderate, ordinary, pragmatic
  • . . . the ardent, fiery, and impetuous character
    of the unfortunate Chief of Glennaquoich was
    finely contrasted with the contemplative,
    fanciful, and enthusiastic expression of his
    happier friend (W, vol. 3, ch. 24)

Dominance of the new realism
  • WS a style of novel has arisen, within the last
    fifteen or twenty years, differing from the
    former in the points upon which the interest
    hinges neither alarming our cred-ulity nor
    amusing our imagination by wild variety of
    incident (Quarterly Review (1816))
  • CRgtMPgtW ( the Waverley Novels) the new novel
    of realist consciousness

Dominance of the new realism
  • Dominance of the new realism trans-formation of
    the field of fiction from its formerly wild
  • What becomes of the non-realist forms of fiction
    from this period?
  • Dominance of realism subordination of other
    more popular fictional forms
  • See the case of the Gothic . . .

Repression of the Gothic
  • The origins of Gothic fiction Horace Walpole,
    The Castle of Otranto (1764 subtitled A Gothic
    Story in 1765)
  • Popularity of Gothic fiction in the late 18C
    e.g. Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udoplpho
    (1794) (as referenced on the opening page of W)
  • Cf. JAs spoof Gothic novel, Northanger Abbey
    (written 1798-1803, published 1818)

Repression of the Gothic
  • A decline in influence and authority of an 18C
    age of reason comes to be marked by the new
    popularity of the Gothic itself a wild
    amalgam of the supernatural, the uncanny, the
    irrational in the late 1700s
  • The newly popular Gothic is then attacked in the
    name of realism through the early 19C (e.g.
    Gothic satire in WS and JA)

Repression of the Gothic
  • At once popular but attacked and repress-ed the
    Gothic represents the repressed underside of
    bourgeois consciousness
  • See Terry Lovell, Consuming Fiction (1987), p. 55
  • See also David Punter, The Literature of Terror

Repression of the Gothic
  • After the realist triumph symbolized by the
    success of MP and W in 1814 it is non-realist
    works of fiction such as Frank-enstein (1818) and
    The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a
    Justified Sinner (1824) that come to represent
    the repress-ed underside of realist or
    bourgeois con-sciousness

Repression of the Gothic
  • The above a sketch of the dynamics of the
    Romantic novel a whole class struggle of
    fictional forms, or dominant realism vs.
    repressed Gothic

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • F as a non-realist work of fiction a wild
    amal-gam of forms
  • . . . an epistolary novel (Waltons letters) a
    fictional journal (Frankensteins account of his
    experiments) a Gothic fantasy (Frankensteins
    creation of his monster) a Bildungsroman (an
    account of the monsters growth and
    develop-ment), etc. finally, an epistolary
    novel again (Waltons letters)

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • All in all, F appears a remarkably hybrid novel
    the very symbol of this hybridity is the monster
    itself as an assemblage of different body parts
  • In this sense, Frankensteins monster emerges as
    the symbol of the wide di-versity of fictional
    forms (supernatural tales, romances, travel
    narratives) held under the sway of a hegemonic

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • The symbolic diversity and hybridity of
    Frank-ensteins collectivized monster is what
    makes the monster truly monstrous in the eyes of
    bour-geois realist consciousness see F.
    Moretti, Signs Taken for Wonders (1983), pp.
  • Consider the significance of the contemporary
    reception of MSs novel . . .
  • F receives remarkably strong criticism in the

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • John Wilson Croker in the Quarterly Review (Jan.
    1818) a tissue of horrible and disgusting
    absurdity. . . . it Frankenstein inculcates no
    lesson of conduct, manners or morality it cannot
    mend and will not even amuse its readers un-less
    their taste has been deplorably vitiated
  • See also Miranda Seymour, Mary Shelley (2000) p.
    196 on the novels hostile reception . . .

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • MS The Edinburgh Magazine (March) conceded
    moments of beauty and a certain fascination in
    the subject. . . . The Monthly Review (April)
    curtly dismissed an uncouth work, void of any
    moral or phil-osophical conclusion
  • See further back-handed praise from Blackwoods
    Magazine when, in 1823, MSs identity as author
    is revealed . . .

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • Blackwoods Magazine (1823) For a man it
    Frankenstein was excellent, but for a woman it
    was wonderful
  • Finally, see the allusion to F in a review of
    MSs 1826 novel The Last Man, in The Literary
    Magnet (1826) . . . another Raw-head-and-bloody-
    bones i.e. the novel is as badly made as is
    Frankensteins monster
  • (A useful summary available at http//www.

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • The fact that F should be strongly criticized
    whilst being popular with the general reader
    suggests there may be something symptomatic about
    the novels reception
  • In terms of the contemporary reviews
    (deplor-ably vitiated, etc.), the strong
    criticism seems a symptom of the monstrousness
    of F having thus been perceived as a subversive
    threat . . .

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • . . . a subversive threat to everything that is
    res-pectable, rational and moderate about realism
    in its current position of dominance within the
    field of fiction
  • . . . Frankensteins monster neither subject nor
    object but abject a fragmented body created
    from chaos . . .
  • The very phrase deplorably vitiated (as well as
    others) suggests an anxiety about the threat-ened
    status of realism on the part of the critical

The subversiveness of Frankenstein
  • MS threatens a return of the repressed with her
    work of fiction about Bourgeois Man (Victor
    Frankenstein) inadvertently making a monster out
    of his use of science and reason
  • No wonder the respectable, rational,
    moderate classes of realism should feel
    threatened by this monstrous novel!

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • Victors account of his experiments a narrative
    of science, repression, and death
  • The more heavily Victor becomes involved with his
    scientific experiments, so the more forcefully he
    is obliged to repress his family ties and
    connections, and this results in his creation
    of death rather than life (i.e. the monster as
    eventually a mur-derous figure)

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • Victor points the moral to his own story Learn
    from me . . . how dangerous is the acquirement of
    knowledge, and how much happier that man is who
    believes his native town to be the world, than he
    who aspires to become greater than his nature
    will allow (ch. 4)
  • Victors dream of Elizabeth (ch. 5) thus serves
    as MSs way of staging a return of the repressed
    in order to expose the deathly repressiveness of
    modern science

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • Curiously, Victor has remarkably little to say
    about what happens when he gives life to his
    creation . . .
  • He tells, rather, of the dream he has in his
    ex-hausted state immediately afterwards
  • . . . I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of
    health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt.
    Del-ighted and surprised, I embraced her but as
    I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they
    became livid with the hue of death . . .

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • . . . her features appeared to change, and I
    thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother
    in my arms a shroud enveloped her form, and I
    saw the graveworms crawling in the folds of the
    flannel (ch.5)
  • (Incidentally, MSs description of Victors dream
    thought to be inspired by Henry Fuselis
    paint-ing, The Nightmare (1781), recently on show
    at Tate Britains Gothic Nightmares exhibition)

(No Transcript)
Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • The dream itself an expression of the
    repress-ed in Victors life family ties and
    connections symbolized by first Elizabeth then
    the dead mother coming back to the surface
  • Symbolically, it is a whole realm of human
    feel-ing that has to be repressed in order for
    Victor to become a man of science
  • On the man of science, see further Genevieve
    Lloyd, The Man of Reason Male and Female in
    Western Philosophy (2nd ed., 1993)

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • See also Mary Jacobus, Reading Woman (1986), p.
    96 Freuds remark that the scientific
    motivation might be said to serve as a pretext
    for the unconscious erotic one could stand as
    the epigraph not only to Freuds own researches
    but to all scientific quests for the origins of
  • MS brings the dream of Elizabeth and the dead
    mother into Victors narrative of science,
    repression, and death in order to make the
    silences in the text speak of that precious realm
    of human feeling that is otherwise lost to the
    world of science, reason, and knowledge

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • The sign of this fateful return of the re-pressed
    occurring in MSs novel is pre-cisely
    Frankensteins inability to speak of that which,
    wrongly, he cares most dearly about, namely his
    act of giving life to his own creation
  • Ch. 5 the dream of Elizabeth, etc. presents
    us with an extremely revealing gap, silence, or
    fissure in the text at issue

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • More than that, F reveals how it is often the
    case that a literary text is more in-teresting
    for what it does not say than what it actually
    says (cf. the silences in CR, MP, and W)
  • Perhaps the best account of the relation-ship
    between speech and silence in lit-erary works is
    Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • PM . . . in order to say anything, there are
    other things which must not be said. . . . Speech
    eventually has nothing more to tell us we
    investigate the silence, for it is the silence
    that is doing the speaking. . . . What is
    important in the work is what it does not say
    (pp. 85-87)

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • Reading a work for its silence rather than its
    speech a radically alternative app-roach to the
    study of literary texts
  • In this regard, reading MSs F for its
    struc-tural silences instead of its constitutive
    speech is what helps to bring out what is
    alternative in this sense, subversive about
    this particular novel in the struggle of the
    Gothic against realism

Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein
  • F is a novel which investigates what it is that
    realism (i.e. science, reason, knowledge)
    cannot say about itself in order to expose the
    limits of its own self-understanding
  • MSs novel claims to speak the self-understanding
    of modern science, namely that within a whole
    realm of precious human feeling science is death