Contents Index

Frankenstein: Sublime as Desecration/Decreation

Vijay Mishra

Chapter 6 of The Gothic Sublime (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1994), 187-223

{187}In her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein1 Mary Shelley explains in some detail how, during one of the nightly discussions at Diodati, the question of infusing life into a dead body through "galvanism" (the grand dream of science in the Enlightenment2) was raised. In Mary Shelley's case an explicit statement about the infusion of life into matter, prefigured, as we shall see, in the great debates between John Abernethy and William Lawrence, was almost thirteen years in the making. It is possible, therefore, to suggest that it was through the writing of Frankenstein itself that she arrived at this position though, predictably, she was considerably chastened by Frankenstein's own attempt at usurping the powers of both woman and creator. In her journal entry of 19 October 1822 she makes a fleeting reference to that night of 16 June 1816 (that sublime night once again!), though the event itself is not covered in her journal. Still recovering from the death of Shelley on 8 July 1822, she explains that in the presence of Byron (Albe) she could hardly ever speak openly:
But since incapacity & timidity always prevented my mingling in the nightly conversations of Diodati -- they were as it were entirely tete-a-tete between my Shelley & Albe & thus as I have said -- when Albe speaks & Shelley does not answer, it is as thunder without rain.3
Such "timidity" also explains the degree of self-questioning with which the 1831 introduction begins. How could a young girl write on "so very hideous an idea?" The crucial word here is "hideous," since it is a word taken up again in the phrase "my hideous progeny." Three meanings of the word hideous come together in Mary Shelley's usage. Its first meaning is that of "causing dread or horror," which is gradually transformed into "revolting {188} to the senses or feelings." Milton's use of it in Paradise Lost (1, 46), "With hideous ruin and combustion," is cited by the OED as an example of this usage. Related to this first meaning is the idea of "terrific on account of size; monstrously large; huge, immense." The example given in the OED ("The great precipice below, which hangs over the sea, is so hideous") is from a 1796 usage, and refers to sublime objects. The second meaning of "hideous" is something that is "distracting or revolting to the moral sense; abominable, detestable; odious." Hence the citation from George Eliot's Romola 2, 4: "Hard speech between those who have loved is hideous in the memory." The final meaning of "hideous" involves a real reference to a "frightful person or object."

As we have already noted in chapter 3, Mary's "hideous idea" was in response to a challenge by Lord Byron who, on reading through some ghost stories in the company of Shelley, Polidori, Mary, and Claire Claremont (who is not mentioned in Mary's preface), suggested that they each write a ghost story. The unusual effect that Byron's reading of Christabel had on Shelley is omitted in Mary's introduction, as is Polidori's later claim that the novel he had in mind was Ernestus Berchtold. Instead, Mary recalls that Polidori considered writing about a lady whose head turned into a skull because she was compulsively attracted to the scenes of sexual taboo and prohibition. As far as her own attempt at writing a ghost story went, Mary says she wanted to write a tale "which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror -- one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart" (226). For Mary Shelley the moment of genesis was also the moment of invention.

"Invention, it must be humbly admitted," she continues, "does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos" (226). It is from the chaos of sounds and not from emptiness, the abyss of silence, the vacuity of the void, that creativity arises. The spark or life force that allowed her to give shape to this chaos was galvanism, and the principles of animation. The passive but devout listener of Byron and Shelley's "chaotic" conversations now retrieves a fragmentary memory, captures a word, a term that establishes, for her, a connection between chaos and creativity. Galvanism, the "application of electricity to dead tissue,"4 is akin to the life force itself: "perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth" (227). In this way, can she become a visitor to Piranesi's monster-making space?

{189} To "superadd" a "vital warmth" to a body is the "organic" vision of creation that Mary has in mind here. The idea, in the immediate historical context, goes back to John Abernethy, who in 1814 delivered a lecture in London before the Royal College of Surgeons in which, drawing on the work of John Hunter and, less assuredly, on that of Humphry Davy, he tried to "distinguish between body, life, and mind as separate entities."5 The significance of Abernethy's lecture lay in his vitalist assumption that life was a self-contained, immutable and transcendental principle not identical with the body. Life, in this highly mystical view, was like the soul or atman, independent of the mechanical body. Life is therefore "superadded to structure" and, on the same basis, the mind, too, is "superadded to life." The closest analogy to life was electricity.

Two years later, in lectures delivered in 1816, William Lawrence, sometime physician of Percy Shelley under whose care the poet's chronic abdominal illness and consumption had "considerably improved,"6 and pupil of John Abernethy, vigorously attacked his former mentor. Adopting the then-fashionable French materialist or mechanistic position, he disagreed with Abernethy's claims of a separate principle of life akin to electricity. An animating matter, like Mary Shelley's galvanism, was contrary to scientific theory and a nostalgic regression to the world of mythology. In his counter-argument Abernethy (1817) accused Lawrence and his colleagues of skepticism and asked whether they in fact felt threatened by the implied connection he had advanced between vitalism and the existence in humans of a soul. This didn't stop the controversy, which in fact gained further momentum from Lawrence's immediate reply (1817), in which he made explicit the connection between the human mind and the "physiological" brain. Abernethy's principle of an independent mind superadded to the physical tissues that made up the brain was rejected outright. Lawrence was clearly on the side of evolutionary theory (on which he was to discourse at length later) and scientific reasoning.

It is not my intention here to connect the events at Diodati during the summer of 1816 with this controversy. I only wish to point out the obvious fact that the central tenet of Mary Shelley's argument -- that life was a force, like electricity, that could be infused into the reconstructed human body -- was being vigorously debated at the time and that the discourse of vitalism was available to her. The connection, however, becomes more significant through the mediation of Coleridge, an important influence on the Shelleys, {190} for whom the organized body was "nothing but the consequence of life, nothing but the means by which and through which it displays itself."7 Mary Shelley, of course, never mentions galvanism in the 1818 text, only in the 1831 revised edition where this knowledge is imparted to Frankenstein by "a man of great research in natural philosophy" (1831: 238). However, this sketchy account of one instance of the vitalist-mechanist controversy is contemporary with the genesis of Frankenstein as well as symptomatic of debates already foregrounded by Kant.

In the Critique of judgement (Part 2, Critique of Teleological Judgement) a "physical thing," that is, a natural object with a "physical end" is defined by its intrinsic capacity toward wholeness: "its parts, both as to their existence and form, are only possible by their relation to the whole."8 As the product of "an intelligent cause" a human is for Kant a physical being with precisely the kind of superadded force subsequently made explicit by Abernethy. And like Abernethy, in Kant as well the antimechanistic conception of humans comes across very powerfully:

This, therefore, is a self-propagating formative power, which cannot be explained by the capacity of movement alone, that is to say, by mechanism.9
There is, then, nothing imperfect about the "formative power" itself. What may be suspect (a point not made by Kant) is the authority from which the power comes in the first place. So, as Chris Baldick has pointed out, the beauty of the component parts that Victor Frankenstein collects as perfect specimens turns out to be "hideously repulsive" on the introduction of Frankenstein's "spark of life."10 Clearly, the ugliness of the Monster is Mary Shelley's way of reminding us that the origin of the spark (where it comes from) is just as important as its intrinsic quality. The artificial origin of the spark (in Frankenstein) desecrates the holiness of the original source of life. Hence participation in the creative process becomes the other extreme of the sublime in death. Both are equally unpresentable. But the first, creation, is also capable of unleashing the narrative of ends. Creation heralds apocalypse; Genesis, Revelations; Frankenstein, The Last Man. Mary's grand capacity to mold chaos through galvanism now produces a "hideous phantasm." The word "hideous" reappears (it occurs five times in the introduction) to explain the central "enigma" of Frankenstein.


-- I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench for ever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which-he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes. (228)
Mary Shelley begins her introduction with a "hideous . . . idea." The descriptive hideous is then connected to the "phantasm" theme, followed by its association with "corpse" and back again to "phantom." Finally, the word hideous is released as "my hideous progeny," a countersublime, technological and unnatural, that Kant would have found inadmissible. She asks this progeny to go forth and prosper, releasing it as a phantom on an unsuspecting world. We need more than Professor Waldman's modern science of "command," "mimic," and "mock," words that he uses to explain to Frankenstein how modern science grasps what for ancient, occult science were mere mysteries (42), to be able to understand the full impact of this hideous progeny. The postmodern sublime lacks Waldeman's certainties, even though it works with far more sophisticated models.

The dual agenda of the 1831 introduction prepares us for a much more open-ended reading of the text; the 1818 preface, penned by Shelley from Mary's point of view, is much more difficult to prize out of its historical specificity.11 Here the desire for radical difference -- that this work is different from the "novels of the present day," with their "amiableness of domestic affection, and the excellence of universal virtue" (7) -- is tempered by a discreet distancing from the convictions in the text. They are not necessarily mine, says Mary; nor am I endorsing that particular point {192} of view. Crawling toward critical acceptance, Percy Shelley defends the subject matter on the grounds of fancy, since the novelty of the situation allows for a more "comprehensive and commanding" examination of "human passions" (6). After the 1831 introduction, this is a relatively tame affair, written with an eye on the critical discourses of the periodical literature. But it also writes the female out of the text: a woman's experience, even for someone as enlightened as Shelley, required no specificity, no especially gendered allusion or response. One returns to a view persuasively presented by Patricia Yaeger about the Female sublime. Using her general insights, can we say that the poet Shelley excludes Mary because the sublime is a masculine genre that is forbidden to women? Is it, as Yaeger suggests, in fact a dangerous genre because it invents "for women, a vocabulary of ecstasy and empowerment" so revolutionary that the male critic must reject it outright?12 For what, after Yaeger, Mary Shelley's works engender are precisely those versions of the Gothic sublime that do question the Law, that do discover, through a female self-empowerment, that space where the subject rejects the imperial demand that it return to the security of patriarchal order. The bliss of the Gothic sublime, though ultimately destructive, is also a means of power.


Published in 1818, Frankenstein is emphatically dedicated to Mary's father William Godwin. Since Mary was pregnant much of the time while Frankenstein was being written (Clara Everina was born in September 1817), and had already experienced the death of a premature child in 1815 and the birth of another, though not premature, in January 1816, the relationship between art and childbirth, in this instance, cannot be overlooked. As we have already seen in chapter 3, what can't be overlooked either is the almost total absence of any real sympathy on the part of William Godwin toward Mary's many tragedies. At the risk of repeating ourselves-and the context of Frankenstein demands the repetition of earlier moments of death and trauma -- the letters that Godwin wrote on the deaths of Mary's children are remarkable for their insensitivity.13 Reading through these letters one is struck by a male principle of "intellectualism" that refuses to authorize a woman's body as a legitimate space from which to construct meaning. Emotions that come from the sinews and bones of the body have no place in this {193} version of truth. "All that has a claim upon your kindness, is nothing, because a child of three years old is dead!" Godwin had written on 9 September 1819, on the death of William.14 At the end of the cruelest letter of them all Mary dutifully composes a note about the loss of her daughter Clara Everina ("The loss of my infant daughter; who died at Venice") and then hurriedly strikes the sentence out. On the death of the poet Shelley, Godwin writes a letter on 6 August 182215 in which, again, Godwin never participates in the special grief of his daughter, and is incapable of the apt phrase or the right metaphor that could act as an ennobling epitaph. Instead, we get a letter that is completely centered around the writer himself: "the sorrows of an unfortunate old man & a beggar," Godwin expostulates. Yet the father to whom Frankenstein is dedicated writes a different story about creation/decreation in Mary Shelley's imaginative world. In a letter written on 15 November 1822, only months after his own expression of mawkish self-pity, he is full of praise: "Frankenstein was a fine thing: it was compressed, muscular & firm. Nothing relaxed & weak."16 The following year, in a note added to a letter written to Mary on 14 February 1823 about the progress of Valperga, her second novel, Godwin writes:
Frankenstein is universally known; & though it can never be a book for vulgar reading, is every where respected. It is the most wonderful work to have been written at twenty years of age that I ever heard of.17
The father gets dragged yet again in the Quarterly Review's condemnation of Frankenstein as "a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity"18 because it was deemed to have been written under the pernicious influence of the person to whom the text was dedicated. What could you expect from the "out-pensioners of Bedlam,"19 the disciples of William Godwin? went the argument. Though the review is extremely negative, the reviewer nevertheless concedes that "there is something tremendous in the unmeaning hollowness of its sound, and the vague obscurity of its images."20 "Unmeaning hollowness" is an abyss, a labyrinth; it releases associations of terror that the reviewer recognizes but about which he prefers to remain silent.

Two months later, in the March 1818 issue of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine,21 Walter Scott wrote an extended, enthusiastic, and largely theoretical essay on Frankenstein. Beginning with an initial distinction between realistic and nonrealistic/marvelous {194} fiction, Scott goes on to subdivide the latter, the marvelous, into various types. In the common run of marvelous stories, "the laws of credibility"22 might be transgressed, but this transgression doesn't have any real effect on either the reader of the text or on the characters in fiction who coexist with these strange, improbable beings. In the second type, however, Scott considers those works in which, again, the "laws of nature are represented as altered," but here the author's aim is to show not the change in laws themselves but the effect of this change on the characters who are implicated in the laws of nature. Scott continues:

But success in this point is still subordinate to the author's principal object, which is less to produce an effect by means of the marvels of the narrations, than to open new trains and channels of thought, by placing men in supposed situations of an extraordinary and preternatural character, and then describing the mode of feeling and conduct which they are most likely to adopt.23
The foundations of the narrative might well be extraordinary, but what we, as readers, must demand is that the impact of the events on characters follow the laws of logic and probability. Scott connects Frankenstein with Godwin's St. Leon and accepts the rumor that the author of this work is Percy Bysshe Shelley. Scott is impressed by the lack of "Germanisms" but feels slightly uneasy with the (at times) exceedingly realistic basis of the Monster's drives, especially his reading and philosophical habits.

The point about Scott's essay, in which, incidentally, he does not take up the usual "moral-oriented" criticism of the periodical literature, is that he accepts the generic basis of this kind of fiction and suggests, in the passage quoted, that this generic radicalism is crucial to the uncovering of aesthetic judgments of the type demanded by the literature of the marvelous. In the September issue of the same journal was published John Wilson's unsigned essay entitled "Some Remarks on the Use of the Preternatural in Works of Fiction." Although this essay lacks the theoretical subtlety of Scott, it nevertheless accepts that the marvelous does give a "pleasing respite from the inexorable tyranny of facts."24

Scott's essay is a welcome interlude in the monotonous diatribe of the other contemporary reviews. Preoccupied as these periodicals were with public morality, it is not surprising that the Monthly Review called Frankenstein an "uncouth story" without {195} any moral or philosophical point or center.25 And this in spite of the attempts made on Mary's behalf by the poet Shelley in the introduction! The Edinburgh Review wondered about the motive behind "this wild fiction." It opined that the moral was confused, even though there were tantalizing hints about the consequences that follow from human appropriation of the godly act of creation.26 The advice of the Edinburgh Review to the author of Frankenstein is that "he" should study "the established order of nature as it appears, both in the world of matter and of mind.27

The realist insistence on the "established order of nature" (art as mimetic representation) lies at the heart of all contemporary reviewers except Scott. In P. B. Shelley's own draft of a review that was posthumously published in the Athenaeum of 10 November 1832, he called it "one of the most original and complete productions of the day.28 Using the metaphors of vastness or immensity-as though one were climbing mountain on mountain -- Shelley emphasizes the giddying effect of the narrative, its enormous capacity to produce a "powerful and profound emotion." Shelley is aware that the novel must be defended on the grounds of public morality, and he does this with considerable force. But the core of his argument is a shift from the creator to his creation. "The Being in 'Frankenstein,"' he writes with a faint sense of self-identification "is, no doubt, a tremendous creature." Shelley continues:

He was an abortion and an anomaly; and though his mind was such as its first impressions framed it, affectionate and full of moral sensibility, yet the circumstances of his existence are so monstrous and uncommon, that, when the consequences of them became developed in action, his original goodness was gradually turned into inextinguishable misanthropy and revenge.29
This is a neat theory: the transformation of an "abortion" (the Monster calls himself an "abortion" too) in narrative leads to shifts and turns that are quite unpredictable. But the representation of this "abortion" (we recall the Literary Magnet's "monstrous literary abortion" remark here), this "Being," whom Richard Brinsley Peake in his dramatized version (1823) was to indicate with a dash "----," demands a narrative that has few distinct parallels. The categories through which this "Being" could be expressed are for Shelley indistinguishable from those of the sublime: "an irresistible solemnity . . . magnificent energy." What Shelley isolates, however, is the {196} effect that persecution has on any person who is denied a place in society. "What is needed," writes Ronald Paulson, "is the beautiful love of a mother, not the sublime fear of a father who cannot come to terms with the unmanageable male-threatening force he has loosed."30 The intertext that looms large here is William Godwin's Caleb Williams, with its complex narrative of duplication and uncanny repetition under the threat of a castrating father.

The foregoing archaeology uncovers a network of complex biographical and textual relationships that complicates any simple interpretation of Frankenstein. The dismissal of this feature of her text is probably due to a critical reading erroneously summed up by Mario Praz as: "All Mrs. Shelley did was to provide a passive reflection of some of the wild fantasies which, as it were, hung in the air about her."31 Criticism cannot advance beyond the purely thematic if a writer is perforce locked into such a judgment about her creativity. Praz has been rightly condemned for this momentary lapse, but the system of grand myths he was using to examine the concept of Romantic agony -- specially in the manifold expressions of the Satanic or Byronic hero -- didn't allow for a reading of a text in which the "satanic Homunculus" is really a monster.32 It seems to me that it was only after an adequate hermeneutic had developed that would allow for a reading of literature through the fundamental concept of gender as socially constructed difference that Mary Shelley's work began to be interrogated in terms of its complex historical moment of production. It is for this reason that I skip the standard "Gothic" readings of Frankenstein and go to feminist interpretations of this text. The survey would also act as an introduction to Mary Shelley's rhetoric of the sublime.

The Gothic, as we have seen, is a moment in literary history when realist representations are questioned. For feminist critics this questioning of realist representations and narrative linearity through framing devices opens up a space for the contestation of imperialist patriarchal discourses, of which the sublime itself is one among many. Not surprisingly, nearly all late twentieth-century theorists of fantasy as counterculture are women: Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous, Ellen Moers, Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Mary Jacobus, Barbara Johnson, Rosemary Jackson, among others. A key concept that underpins much of feminist discourses on the Gothic is Ellen Moers' "Female Gothic."33

Beginning with the generally accepted definition of the Gothic as writings in which "fantasy predominates over reality, the strange over the commonplace, and the supernatural over the nat- {197} ural, with one definite auctorial intent: to scare,"34 Ellen Moers gives the production of the female writers in this mode (Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, etc.) a gendered specification by calling their works "Female Gothic." Now, according to Moers, the importance of Mary Shelley in this tradition/writing of "Female Gothic" lies in her transformation of the Gothic form into a precursor of modern science fiction. Like Moers' initial definition of the Gothic, this, too, is a common enough claim. Where a significant advance occurs is in the radical connection Moers makes between the fact of being a mother and the central theme of the text: "For Frankenstein is a birth myth, and one that was lodged in the novelist's imagination, I am convinced, by the fact that she was herself a mother."35 Moers' reading of Frankenstein through the childbirth metaphor has been adopted by other, not necessarily feminist, readers, notably Marc Rubinstein, Barbara Johnson, and U. C. Knoepflmacher. Among the many pregnancies, miscarriages, and infant deaths she had had to live with, perhaps the death of her own mother upon childbirth (which existed only as narrative fragments to be discovered through her father's manuscripts -- a veritable Gothic search indeed!) was the original moment of trauma. All other deaths were then repetitions (in the compulsive sense of the word) of a death that had something of an originary, almost phylogenetic, status. Having lost a mother, she also lost "a mother's nurture."36

At a time when few writers were also mothers, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein expresses an attitude toward the Monster that belies a mother's own barely concealed murderous impulses toward her child, what Moers calls the "trauma of the afterbirth."37 Moers works through the biographical details of birth and death between June 1816 and May 1817, the period of Frankenstein's composition, to emphasize the uniqueness of Mary Shelley's personal experience as a young woman writer, and the radical difference of women's writing generally in the context of female sexuality and motherhood. Moers' conclusion is decisive:

What Mary Shelley actually did in Frankenstein was to transform the standard Romantic matter of incest, infanticide, and patricide into a phantasmagoria of the nursery.38
"Phantasmagoria of the nursery," like the "female sterility" principle of Grainville, is a monstrous idea taken to its limits. It is a conclusion that is endorsed by U. C. Knoepflmacher, who expands this "phantasmagoria" into "a fantasy designed to relieve deep personal {198} anxieties over birth and death and identity."39 But there is also a strong political payoff in the phantasmagoric sublime of the nursery. One remembers that Mary Shelley was the daughter of a man whose own disciples had been condemned as "'the spawn of the monster.'"40 In 1799, the Anti-Jacobin Review published a take-off on Fuseli's The Nightmare" with an accompanying poem.41 The picture shows he opposition Whig leader Charles James Fox asleep on his broken bed (clearly a consequence of the agitated nightmare he is going through), surrounded by grotesque figures who parody the Parisian revolutionaries and sansculottes. Fuseli's dark horse protruding its lead through the curtain is now the horse of death ridden by a Jacobin harbinger of death. He carries a flag of liberty that is set deep in his chest while the satanic succubus lifts the curtain. A dagger is in full flight, heading toward the window. The cause of this nightmare is to be found in the sleeper's coat, which lies on a chair at the foot of the bed. From the pocket protrudes a copy of William Godwin's Political Justice. In the overall context of the picture, Godwin's work occupies the same prominent space as the "monsters" of the evolution, a sublime threat to authority whom Edmund Burke had Low converted into terrorists. The sublime for Burke, after all, was a divine terror linked directly to notions of class.

The symbolic connection between Godwin and a monster is more emphatically underlined by Thomas De Quincey, who spoke of the 1790s as a period when "most people felt of Mr. Godwin with the same alienation and horror as of a ghoul, or a bloodless vampyre, or the monster created by Frankenstein."42 The reactionary reading of Jacobinism as "monsterism" was so endemic that even Mary Wollstonecraft used the metaphor in her account of the excesses of the French Revolution. Yet in a neat reduction of the central plea of Mary Shelley's own Monster, Wollstonecraft wrote:

Sanguinary tortures, insidious poisonings, and dark assassinations, have alternately exhibited a race of monsters in human shape, the contemplation of whose ferocity chills the blood, and darkens every enlivening expectation of humanity: but we ought to observe, to reanimate the hopes of benevolence, that the perpetration of these horrid deeds has arisen from a despotism in the government, which reason is teaching us to remedy.43
For Wollstonecraft slaves retaliate because tyranny (Edmund Burke's Gothic fantasy) gives them no option but to become "mon- {199} strous." Hatred breeds misanthropy, and monstrosity in the working classes is a mirror image of the forces that produce the condition of tyranny. Both the revolutionary and antirevolutionary political language of the 1790s were steeped in metaphors of "monsterism." Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Paine, and the Jacobins, the revolutionary front as well as Edmund Burke and the conservatives on the right wing of politics had used this central metaphor. It was both a confessional metaphor, as in the case of Wollstonecraft, and an inflammatory one, as in the case of Burke. For Mary Shelley the political ambiguities inherent in the metaphor of "monsterism" enabled her to play on its contradictory meanings and eschew, right from the start, any possibility of naive reductionism.

An awareness of these available discourses or, more generally, of the political unconscious itself, enables us to see the complex way in which Mary becomes an instrument and minister of her parents' own political program. A much more literary homage to authority may be seen in Mary Shelley's treatment of Milton's Paradise Lost, from which she takes her epigraph. "Frankenstein. . .," argue Gilbert and Gubar, "is a fictionalized rendition of the meaning of Paradise Lost to women."44 This master literary text, which was for Mary and the poet Shelley an "all-consuming presence," can either be completely parodied and hence destabilized, or it can be ironically confirmed through strategic overwriting or conscious misreading. The key to Paradise Lost lay in two major events: the first is the fall of Satan, the second the "inabstinence of Eve." For Gilbert and Gubar the extreme "literariness" of this grand epic is what, as a writer, Mary must recast: it is the precursor text into which Mary Shelley is forever "imprisoned" because epics, as Foucault pointed out, are the master texts of contrived immortality. In recasting the epic (through a postepic discourse) Frankenstein pushes the consequences of Satan's fall and Eve's "inabstinence" to extremes. The former leads to a universal fall whose apocalyptic reading is to be found in The Last Man; the latter leads to the birth of the Monster. Gilbert and Gubar call this a retelling of the patriarchal sublime. It is probably better to see it as a recasting, which is both a paraphrase and a commentary on the master text. A commentary requires digressions and departures; it requires frames that would dislodge narrative linearity and displace the central themes of the original. What emerges, therefore, in Frankenstein is solipsism and redundancy, repetition and regressive "mirroring." The duplication and reduplication that occur combine personal history, Mary's own sexuality and growth, with those of the characters. Orphaned, {200} guilt-ridden, confused, threatened by the unspeakable crime of incest, the characters in Frankenstein -- the Monster and Frankenstein included -- lose their separate identities, their differences, in a Miltonic miasma of hellish chaos.45 And this is the chaos from which, as an artist, she formed a structure: "And when I love thee not, chaos is come again." Nowhere is the collapse of difference-the return to chaos -- more evident than in the way in which a not-fully theorized feminism, an unconscious feminism, so to speak, leads Mary to condemn Frankenstein for daring to "usurp the power of women."46 The space in which this role can be adopted is no longer the monastery (Ambrosio) or the castle (Otranto). It is now a laboratory modeled on Piranesi ("a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, separated from all other apartments by a gallery and staircase"); Frankenstein's "work-shop of filthy creation" (50) is the perverse site of the technological sublime.47

The central terms in which the feminist argument works are extended further by both Mary Poovey and Margaret Homans. For Poovey the metaphor of creation and usurpation of the feminine role is reconstructed by Mary Shelley through the author herself, as writer, acting as the midwife who passively witnesses the work of Frankenstein and yet brings it into being through her writing.48 In this act of midwifery Mary Shelley performs the socially acceptable role of self-denial that is a defining (in ideological terms) characteristic of the proper lady. There is, of course, a critical ideology at work here that functions as the silent censor of literary production by women writers generally. Since the reviewers were almost invariably men (after all, it was Percy Shelley who wrote the 1818 preface and also made a number of changes to the text -- see manuscript fragments), the act of reading and production of meaning was a male critical endeavor. Women writers could write passively but could not interpret. The only way in which we can get around that "passivity" (Mario Praz's "passive reflection") occasioned by the social definition of the role of the "proper lady" is to blast open the norms of critical practice itself and to recontextualize Mary's novel in the material conditions of literary production that, in her case, could not overlook this writing (as self-knowledge) "by a young woman who had already lost a baby in infancy (in 1815, a girl), would lose another, also a girl, in 1818, and, in 1819, lost a third."49 The last of these was the three-year-old, William, the name also given to the little boy (Frankenstein's youngest brother) murdered by the Monster.

"At the same time that Frankenstein is about a woman {201} writer's response to the ambiguous imperative her culture imposes on her," writes Margaret Homans in response to the Poovey thesis, "it is also possible that the novel concerns a woman writer's anxieties about bearing children, about generating bodies that. . . would have the power to displace or kill the parent."50 The implied death wish and Oedipal longings manifest themselves at both the textual and biographical levels. All potential mothers, including the "monsteress," die or are violated before birth; a whole series of real women close, in personal terms, to Mary Shelley also die: Harriet Shelley, Fanny Imlay, and, of course, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Reacting to a culture that saw women's role in singularly "motherhood" terms, Mary's version of a "monstrously illegitimate" childbirth threatens both the social definition of woman as mother as much as it destroys the phallic power of insemination associated with the father.

Mary Poovey has indicated that Mary's docility was in itself a critique of a woman's passive role. She argues that her writing was a result of listening and transcription -- precisely the points taken over as self-evident processes by Praz and Harold Bloom.51 Frankenstein as a myth of childbirth is extended by Homans into a text that bears or carries "men's words."52 The underlying concept here is that of "motherhood" as "passive transcription." Homans calls this process in literature "literalizations." In an extension of the Gilbert and Gubar thesis (and incorporating Mary Poovey, too, a fact that strongly indicates the immense continuity of mainstream American feminist readings of Frankenstein) Homans considers Frankenstein as a "literalization" of powerful masculine texts such as Genesis, Paradise Lost, and Alastor, but the transcription, in the shadow of patriarchal writing and writers, leaves her bereft of power and condemns her to the role of the passive "transcriber," the midwife, who even as mother must remain passive. The wedge created as a result can be filled only through a subversive writing of the female sublime that cannot be divorced from a woman's body itself, blood, tissues, childbirth and all.53

Generically, of course, the female Gothicist must also come to terms with a genre that, according to Frances L. Restuccia's reading of Leslie Fiedler's classic Love and Death in the American Novel, is "a reservoir of strictly male desire, anxiety, neurosis."54 The male Gothic tradition, with its own ambiguous, sometimes perversely "homosocial," defiance of patriarchy had, conversely, marginalized woman and "used homophobia to divide and manipulate the male-homosocial spectrum."55 In restoring woman, reinserting her back [{202-205} contain copies of sheets from the manuscript] {206} into the genre with her head intact, the female Gothicist creates a son (the genre must have a male hero) in rebellion against the father but cannot endorse his sexual excesses and exploitation of women. She could condemn him outright -- the genre would probably collapse if the threat was seen through -- ; she could civilize him; but she opts instead for a mirroring that would expose the son as being no different from, but as cruel as, the father. Endorsement and sabotage, the killing off of both the father and the son -- these are the frames within which the female Gothicist operates. As Frances L. Restuccia explains:

A male gothic in miniature often surfaces within and eventually is swallowed up by the female gothic frame, the ingestion of which signifies the female gothicist's ambivalence -- destroying it but taking it in -- toward male gothicism.56
The reconstructions of Mary Shelley's text through powerfully argued feminist readings are also acts of radical modernization as the text is now repackaged for consumption in the world of late capital. As a text that is "ceaselessly rewritten, reproduced, refilmed and redesigned,"57 Frankenstein now gets radically multivocalized. But the critical apparatuses of feminism, which lead to the best and most finely attuned of all readings of Mary Shelley, nevertheless are linked to questions of the sublime as the text continues to be recast as the female Gothicist's representation of the unnameable in the context of an ambiguous usurpation of women's right to reproduce, and the representation of women in male genres and discourses. These feminist metatexts have also dislodged the primacy of the masculine sublime.


Lackington & Co.'s handwritten account of expenses for printing and publishing Frankenstein in January 1818 indicates that of the 500 copies printed, 459 (41 were given gratis to the author [6 copies], reviewers [16], copyright libraries [11], and booksellers who bought more than 25 copies [8]) were sold at 10/6 (ten shillings and six pence) per three-volume set. After deducting printing expenses, Mary Shelley's share was one-third of the profits, which came to £41.13.10 (forty-one pounds, thirteen shillings, and ten pence).58 Forty-one pounds is not a large amount of money, but the distribu- {207} tion of money on the basis of the retail cost of the book compares quite favorably with modern-day contracts between authors and publishers.

The novel was reissued in two volumes in 1823 with the author's name included on the title page for the first time. A copy of this edition presented to Mrs. Thomas in 1823 carried the author's autograph variants. This copy has fortunately survived and was used as the basis for James Rieger's critical edition of the 1818 text. The year 1823 also saw the presentation of the stage version of Frankenstein, Presumption; or the Fate of Frankenstein, by Richard Brinsley Peake. A copy of the handwritten manuscript (with two quite distinct handwritings) in the Huntington is entitled Frankenstein: A melodramatic Opera in 3 Acts.59 The published version was retitled Frankenstein, A Romantic Drama. Peake takes a number of liberties in his version. The first is a radical reorganization of the genealogical relationships in the original text. Elizabeth now becomes Frankenstein's sister and is betrothed to Clerval. Frankenstein himself marries blind De Lacey's daughter Agatha, who is murdered by the Monster. The other victim of the Monster is Frankenstein's brother William. A servant, Felix, is introduced who functions as an intermediary between the audience and the secret work that is underway in the laboratory. True to its melodramatic form, the play also uses Fritz as the mandatory comic buffoon. It is probably far too easy, as Chris Baldick does, to read the play simply as the moralizing of Mary Shelley's work. The title of the performed version, Presumption . . ., certainly connects the play to the older tradition of morality plays, where human desire to play God invariably led to disaster. But this easy reductionism takes us away from the reworking of the Gothic sublime by Peake. It is not accidental that the Monster is no longer given a language and is addressed throughout as the "Demon." It is also important to note that the idiotic Fritz is given the line, "like Doctor Faustus, my Master is raising the Devil" (Act 1.5). Fritz obviously gets the analogy wrong, since Frankenstein himself compares his work to Prometheus: "Like Prometheus of old have I daringly attempted the formation -- the animation of a being--" (Act 1.10). The principle that is being alluded to more fully here than in the Mary Shelley precursor is the separate principle of life advanced by John Abernethy. Peake is thus raising the Abernethy-Lawrence debates about the existence or otherwise of a self-contained principle that exists independently of the human body. Clerval, who does not know the work in the laboratory, is unable to see science as anything other than an alchemist's attempts at transmuting metals and the {208} search for the elixir of life. The extended discourse on galvanism that we find only in Mary Shelley's later introduction to the 1831 edition is graphically foregrounded here, a fact that, once again, strengthens our case that Mary's recollection of the dream that was the source of Frankenstein is an effect of the text(s) and not its cause. Furthermore, Peake introduces a more straightforward connection between electricity and the special principle of life. "For this one pursuit," says Frankenstein," a storm has hastily arisen!" He continues:

'Tis a dreary night -- the rain patters dismally against the panes -- 'tis a night for such a task -- I'll in -- and attempt to infuse the spark of life. (Act 1:19)
The description of the Monster is, however, taken almost verbatim from Mary Shelley's work.
What a wretch have I formed! his legs are in proportion and I had selected his features as beautiful! Oh horror! his cadaverous skin scarcely covers the work of muscles & arteries -- beneath -- his hair lustrous black, and flowing -- his teeth of pearly whiteness -- but these luxuriances only form more horrible contrasts with the deformities of the Demon. (Act 1: 20)
It is true that Frankenstein at this moment feels remorseful and regrets his action. But the immorality of the action turns inward and affects his own serenity, as it threatens to subvert the social order (especially the family order) itself. The premonition is what sustains the play, as Frankenstein imagines the doomed figures of William and Agatha and the unhappy Elizabeth, who would finally lose both her brothers. From here onward Frankenstein becomes decidedly Gothic as he stalks guilt-ridden from place to place. "In vain do I seek a respite from these dreadful thoughts," says Frankenstein (Act 2:20). The Monster, on the other hand, is only signified by the word "demon" or "supernatural being" and does not enter into the realm of the symbolic through the mastery of language. But nor is he presented as congenitally evil. His warm relationship with the De Lacey family before he is shot at and wounded by Felix is chronicled at length, and his subsequent reactions, though violent, arise out of this initial rejection. In the end both Frankenstein and the Monster die as an avalanche of snow, precipitated by the musket that Frankenstein fires, falls on them.

An account of the success of this play and a crucial reading of {209} the Monster himself in Mary's own hand has survived. In a letter to Leigh Hunt dated September 9, 1823, Mary Shelley recounts her success. "But 10 & behold! I found myself famous!"60 she wrote. Presumption had been a tremendous success, she told Leigh Hunt, and was going to be staged for the twenty-third time. Mary Shelley endorses at least two aspects of the play, both of which were to make their way into James Whale's (1931) film version produced exactly one hundred years after the publication of the second, revised edition of Frankenstein as number 9 of Bentley's Standard Novels. The use of a dash ("----") to indicate the Monster (played by Thomas Potter Cooke) is endorsed by Mary Shelley: "this nameless mode of naming the un(n)ameable is rather good." In recounting her own night at the English Opera House, Mary Shelley, too, indicates the Monster's name with a dash: "but Cooke played ----'s part extremely well." Because the Monster is "un(n)ameable," he becomes the sublime object of the Gothic, but with the superadded effect arising out of his monstrous "birthing." Where the Gothic sublime had constructed the impossible name of the father (Falkland) or the genealogical horror that the mind simply repressed or finally, as another instantiation of this series, the uncanny imaging of the self as Other, the Monster here constructs the sublime as its own impossibility: to name the sublime in whatever metaphor (even by negating it) is to somehow bring it into the world of order through which we make sense of our lives. In this respect the double negation of Mary Shelley ("nameless," "un(n)ameable") now says that the Gothic sublime is an endless series of negativities, the semantic opposite of the metonymic signifiers of the language of the unconscious that, of course, cannot countenance negation, but nor can they ground meaning in any signified. Apart from the "unnaming," Mary also endorses a structural shift in the narrative: the introduction of a terrified servant, the comic character Fritz, peeping through a dimly lit window. He runs off in terror when he hears Frankenstein exclaim, "It lives!" (Act 1.20). Like The Count of Narbonne, Presumption is another of those "creative misreadings"61 of the precursor that have forever changed the semantic content of the original. Thus, within five years of its first publication, Frankenstein had already achieved a degree of heterogeneity. Indeed, it is precisely this kind of rewriting of the precursor that has marked the Gothic off as a particular kind of literary (re)negotiation. In the case of Frankenstein it also led to a radical substitution of the son by the father, as the name "Frankenstein" is now associated, in the public imagination, with the Monster. The son's revenge on the {210} father is complete through a sublime rebegetting, where a total inversion of the original myth now gets lodged in the very subjects that construct intersubjective meanings in the first instance. Though, admittedly, this is a somewhat forced historical search for the exact moment of the substitution and the triumph of the son, Elizabeth Gaskell's ambiguous conflation of the Monster and Frankenstein in Mary Barton might be noted at this point.

The actions of the uneducated seem to me typified in those of Frankenstein, that monster of many human qualities, ungifted with a soul, a knowledge of the difference between good and evil.62
It is true, of course, that the many filmic variants and comic strips have never explicitly maintained such a conflation. Nevertheless, my point is that film viewers, at any rate, taking the lead from Elizabeth Gaskell's fictitious character, have invariably connected the name Frankenstein, through Boris Karloff's 1931 characterization, with that of the Monster. This dramatic misreading against an explicit directive in the texts themselves (both print and visual) is quite extraordinary and underlines the dehistoricization of the sublime that takes place in the subject because, as Kant pointed out, the sublime is always the objectification of the unpresentable within us.

Frankenstein cannot be read as a single, unified text. Like the paradigmatic precursor text (The Castle of Otranto), which underwent a process of expansion and rewriting, Frankenstein (and the Gothic generally) must be read as a "process" inextricably linked to other, not necessarily novelistic, semiotic systems. Mel Brooks' film spoof Young Frankenstein (1974) may be taken as an example of this process of expansion and rewriting, since its target texts (for purposes of parody) are the multiplicity of texts inspired by the original. Apart from Mary Shelley's work, the crucial intermediate texts of this film would include Peake's 1823 stage version, the 1931 film version, Whale's subsequent extension of the theme in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), the Dracula films, and, finally, all these texts as interpreted through a much more alert and critical reading of the female (Gothic) sublime. In another important postmodern film -- Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982/1993) -- the sublime Monster gets transformed into replicants (sixth generation human mutants) who now challenge the moral primacy of humans and their proprietorial claims to complete emotional plenitude. The discourse of Mary {211} Shelley's Monster is distributed, in the main, through the completely assimilated female replicant Rachel and the golden, Prometheus-like, Batty. It is the latter who is the voice of the moral dilemma of a creator's responsibility that the Monster had raised with Frankenstein. "It is not an easy thing to meet your maker," says Roy Batty to Dr. Tyrell, and asks, "Can a maker repair what he makes?" Can the maker countenance this sublime request? The answer is in the negative because the consequences of granting the request would be far too horrible as Frankenstein himself had realized when he refused to grant the Monster his request for a bride. In the case of Roy Batty the creator's refusal to grant him a longer life turns to violence as the son literally gouges his father's eyes out. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, then, turns the table on humans by giving the morally unimpeachable position to Batty who, in a further twist to the Monster's original dialogue, introduces the elements of slavery, fear, and death into the precursor narrative of Mary Shelley. Writing in an age which had yet to know the technologies of genetic engineering and the full potential of the digital revolution, Mary Shelley could only offer the bare outline of the scientific side of her creation. Her sense of the moral crisis is, however, another matter and her Monster's discourse in this regard is the exemplary text. In a futuristic Los Angeles of acid rain and Piranesian architecture, the same discourse of the sublime is replayed with a more complex and difficult emotional content because the levels of representation have become correspondingly more complicated. The ethics of responsibility are finally presented to Deckard, the pursuing Frankenstein figure and, in the 1993 director's version of the film quite possibly a replicant himself, who can only listen, fearfully, to the powerful counter-discourse of the Monster/Batty: "Quite an experience to live in fear. That's what it is to be a slave. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain." Where The Bride of Frankenstein had ended with the Monster's Conradian utterance, "We belong dead," Blade Runner offers a longer text of Kurtzian horror written in the shadow of the Gothic sublime of Mary Shelley.

Of all the texts of the Gothic read in the preceding chapters and in the next, Frankenstein has the most extensive postmodern bibliography and vocabulary. It is also a text that can be read most effectively as presaging the technological sublime of late capital. The kind of intellectual payoff one gets from reading Frankenstein in the last decade of the twentieth century is radically different from and yet nostalgically connected to its contemporary reception. {212} We must now return to the text itself as an instance of what Wallace Stevens said about modernist decreation, "Modern reality is a reality of decreation" as (after Simone Weil) "making pass[es] from the created to the uncreated."63 What the sublime as decreation meant to Mary Shelley takes us back, initially, to her remarkable introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein.

In search of a theme on which to build her narrative, Mary Shelley, as we've already seen, reflects on Byron and Shelley's discourses on galvanism and the reanimation of the dead, but not before the idea gets transformed into a dream/hallucination/vision. Like Horace Walpole's dream of the figure walking off a portrait, Mary Shelley's vision, as recounted in the 1831 introduction, cannot be given a "preliterary" priority. What happens in her recollection of the "real" vision of 1816 is that the literary discourse of Frankenstein invades the autobiographical moment and effectively displaces it. In other words, what she recalled in her 1831 introduction were no more than snippets from the already-written text (1818) and not fragments of a dream/vision in need of artistic ordering. The moment is retrospectively endowed with meaning; it is not the origin of the text which followed. The dream/vision in the 1831 introduction is far too complete to be a dream (which it is only after a fashion) and lacks the ambiguity of a center that lies at the heart of any dream. For this reason the 1831 introduction is not so much an account of the genesis of Frankenstein, as its consequences, in the sense that the text sharpened perception and allowed Mary Shelley to reinterpret her own biography in the light of Frankenstein. For what this vision/dream indicates so clearly is not so much its own status as the italicized dream-text of Freud, but as his commentary on it. In other words, Mary Shelley's dream is not Freud's italicized dream-text, even though Mary Shelley proposes to present it as such. In this vision/commentary, the original moment of the sublime as creation is now transformed, through a phantasmal or monstrous semantics, into decreation and deformity. A "hideous phantasm" brought to life by "some powerful engine" (with echoes, as in Caleb Williams, of the slang word for "penis") is described as "frightful," "odious handywork," "hideous corpse," "the horrid thing," and so on. When Mary Shelley opens her eyes, she is possessed by "terror" and stalked by images of "my hideous phantom." The impact is such that the book she writes also appears to be monstrous.64

To create the Monster is akin to the momentary glimpse into the sublime, a moment, in the Kantian economy, when reason {213} allows imagination to see in the terrifying, the unpresentable, the moment of self-annihilation and destruction. Frankenstein the text has as its center not the creator but the created, not God but man. Man displacing God desecrates the sanctity of creation; man transplanting God decreates himself as Monster. The latter, as the primal desecration/decreation, requires for its enunciation the cate gories of myth. But any reading through the primary myth given in the subtitle, "The Modern Prometheus," cannot simply reslot the text into this narrative antecedent; it must see the subtitle as the moment of the uncanny. Such is the ambiguity of the connecting conjunction ("or") between the title and its subtitle that it would be wrong to interpret, unproblematically, "The Modern Prometheus" as representing Frankenstein. Caleb Williams is not "Things as They Are," just as Hermsprong is not "Man as He Is Not." If the Monster as well as Frankenstein are the Modern Prometheus, then man and Monster effectively share the same myth of origin and, by extension become a Doppelganger, images of one another. Prometheus connects with the Sanskrit pramantha, a stick used for rubbing wood to produce fire. Pramantha, in Sanskrit, also displaces manu, the primal human, which is arguably the root form of the many forms of "man" in later Indo-European languages. Thus, through a figurative transposition "man" and "monster" in Frankenstein are the same thing.

What is unleashed is the destructive force of the uncanny. It is a "monstrous potentiality" that, as Peter Brooks explains, is so close to us, "too heimisch for comfort," that we repress it through negation, through an un.65 As a consequence, like the Monster, who remains locked in the imaginary and fails dismally to enter the symbolic logic of culture since the female monster, his only hope for a fully developed systemic difference, is destroyed at the very moment of creation, we as readers are also faced with the consequences of putting our faith in the sublime. We emerge scarred by the experience of our own dissolution, our own regression in the unformed, decreated being incapable of self-transcendence. In writing about the Monster, Mary Shelley also writes herself out of the positive Romantic sublime. The concluding sentences of Peter Brooks' suggestive essay offer precisely this theory of the sublime without in fact mentioning it by name.

The text solicits us through the promise of a transcendent signified, and leaves us, on the threshold of pleasure, to be content with the play of its signifiers. At the same time, it {214} contaminates us with a residue of meaning that cannot be explained, rationalized, but is passed on as affect, as taint.66
How is this effect achieved? What strategies does Mary Shelley employ? What I propose to do is to pursue a specific argument in line with the overall theme of this chapter: how does Mary Shelley read ends through the unholy concept of desecration/decreation? And, furthermore, what is so specifically sublime about this? Structurally, the text is simply a manuscript that is attached to a letter sent to Mrs. Margaret Saville by her brother Walton, an explorer dedicated to discovering new routes and sea passages through hitherto unexplored and impassable frozen seas. In the opening pages he recounts his vision of the Arctic sublime against the common wisdom of "frost and desolation." "There," he writes, ". . . the sun is forever visible. . . there snow and frost are forever banished; and sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe" (1831: 9-10). Walton's ideal descriptions are the other side of the sublime as the tremendous agency of the Arctic cold where, among the orthodox, "nature was somehow vaster, more mysterious, and more terrible than elsewhere."67 Toward the end of the novel the Arctic sublime takes on a vastly different form, as Walton begins to repeat the terror of being surrounded by "mountains of ice" (210, 211). In this version the Arctic now becomes another trope of the sublime to be added to the list of obscurity, vastness, and magnificence handed down by the historical sublime. The abyss, then, subdues Walton and, like the Romantic subject confronted by the infinite, he retreats into the reality principle. As an extension of this, at the level of the narrative itself we find an excessive desire on the part of Mary Shelley to give the work a degree of realist legitimacy. Indeed, the reconstructions of the various fragments into unities so that the narrative within a narrative within letters has a realist underpinning is confirmed over and over again. "The story," as Frankenstein explained to another listener of the tale, the Swiss magistrate, "is too connected to be mistaken for a dream" (196-97). The claim is made by Frankenstein, who, in defending himself against possible accusations of madness (whoever heard of a creation like this?), insists on the linearity of the narrative, its continuity and "connectedness." But this is not the whole story, in fact not even a small part of the whole tale, because both the utopianism of the Arctic sublime (as seen by Walton's refusal to accept received wisdom) and the generic framing in the {215} opening pages tell a different story. What strikes us soon after Walton's persuasive descriptions of the Arctic is the self-conscious echo of Rousseau's The Confessions in Frankenstein's own narrative (Rousseau, one remembers, had no time for those necessary repressions endorsed by the state apparatus as essential for maintaining culture). Frankenstein begins, "I am by birth a Genevese" (27). Against this let us place Rousseau's autobiographical introduction: "I was born at Geneva in 1722."68 One of the reasons why Mary Shelley adopts The Confessions as her model is that Rousseau's birth led to his mother's death: "my birth was the first of my misfortunes."69 What happens is that the Rousseau intertext breaks the "connectedness" of Frankenstein's narrative and introduces Mary Shelley's own personal biography. In this manner the claim to realist linearity is undercut through a collapse of the narrator embedded in the text, Frankenstein, and the author, Mary Shelley. The consequences of this and its importance to feminist readings of Frankenstein have already been demonstrated and I need not repeat myself on that score. What the collapse indicates, furthermore, is the illusory nature of the structural dependencies constructed in the text: the tale of Frankenstein, incorporating the tale of the Monster, incorporating the tale of the De Lacey family and Safie. These tales, mediated through Frankenstein's master narrative, are then "addressed" to Mrs. Saville by Walton. This is the connection that Frankenstein emphasizes; he sees history as a narrative of interconnected wholes, relatively discrete moments that can be distinguished, on grounds of unity and coherence, from the chaos of signifiers that make a dream-text.

But Frankenstein is anything but a series of interdependent narratives. It is instead a narrative of excessive duplication and reduplication of dreamlike regressions and endless mirroring. The structure enforces a design that in reality does not exist; the narrators get locked into each other's uncanny tales, confounding the laws of logic. For every crime that the Monster commits, the prime suspect for the dispassionate observer must be Frankenstein himself. Thus, Frankenstein's claim that the story is far too connected to be mistaken for a dream is something he would dearly wish to believe in, and believe he does, only to be confounded by it toward the end of his own life. It is for this reason that classic Hollywood cinema (the cinema of absolute linearity) has never been able to do full justice to Frankenstein in the manner in which the expressionist Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau did to the vampire myth (Nosferatu, 1922).

{216} From Walton's vision of the Arctic sublime and Frankenstein's vain hope about the linearity of his story, we move inexorably to the source of the horror itself, the Monster whom Frankenstein creates and whose actions implicate him at every step, both socially and psychologically. At the risk of being selective, it is the creation of the Monster and his relationship to both Frankenstein and Mary Shelley that will be our concern in the final section of this chapter. The creation itself is, as I've said before, the moment of the sublime; in collapsing the two domains of the formation of the subject -- sexual and social reproduction and production -- through the "artificial womb,"70 Victor Frankenstein pushes the sublime to its very limits.71 The "artificial womb" is, however, referred to as "my workshop of filthy creation" (50), described in suitably Gothic terms ("separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase"), where "bones from charnel houses" were kept. "My workshop of filthy creation" is appropriately ambiguous, since "filthy" might refer equally to the "work-shop" (the artificial womb) and to the "creation" (the child-to-be, the Monster). The creator, too, is referred to as "profane," a word that enters dramatically into an oppositional set with "sacred." In constructing the site of creation, Frankenstein is simultaneously defiling and desecrating the creative process. Against the Miltonic precursor text of creation, where life is infused by an unseen God, Mary Shelley's creation is all artificiality, the parodied handiwork of a deranged surgeon.

Yet the moment of "conception" is unaccountably qualified by the modality of "might": "I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet" (52). There is something missing between the collection of the "instruments of life" (which are not specified) and the desire to "infuse a spark of being" made so tentative and ambiguous through "might." What is happening is a kind of a filmic cut, representation through montage: two quick shots of the process followed by one of the product, "the dull yellow eye of the creature open[ed]; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs." Frankenstein reacts in "catastrophic" terms, and he implicitly opposes what should have been "beautiful" ("I had selected his features as beautiful") with what is inexpressible, the sublime:

Beautiful -- Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his {217} watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips. (52)
About eight feet tall (49), the creature as described carries disturbing resonances of early nineteenth-century stereotypical descriptions of black men and women. The Whale/Boris Karloff version of the Monster, with a square face put in place with nuts and bolts, makes him a distorted European; Mary Shelley's description is a composite figure constructed from the newborn baby with its cover of "wax" and almost transparent skin, and the black person as Other, represented in such exhibitions as that of the "Hottentot Venus" in 1810.72 The description leads to rejection, disgust, and horror. Just as Mary Shelley was disturbed by a dream/vision, and retrospectively superimposed, it seems to me, the 1818 description on her own recollection of the event in 1816 penned in 1831, so, too, is Frankenstein. The dream he has is about necrophilia, confusion of identities, incest, and the death of his mother.
I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; 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. (53)
There are two inter-related moments of "chaos" here. The first is a straightforward premonition of the deaths to come -- the Monster, as harbinger of death, is like a plague: in the frozen north, he seems to exist as the only survivor. The second moment is the chaos attendant on an unresolved Oedipus complex.73 Not subject to the censor of the superego, the Monster is the unconscious manifested, Frankenstein's unheimlich. And in this "manifest unconscious," Mary Shelley, too, is finally trapped. The form that her "presence" takes is in the "unsayable or unpresentable of discourse and representation,"74 in the refusal by the phallocentric order to create a female companion for the monster.

It is, after all, Frankenstein who "names" his "being" or "lifeless thing" a "monster" (53). It is he who continues "denaming" him through variations on "monstrosity": "creature," "hideous guest," "my enemy," "dreaded spectre," "object," "wretch," "the filthy dae- {218} mon," "my own vampire," "fiend," "devil," "vile insect," "wretched devil," "abhorred devil," "odious companion," and so on. And the final signified of all these monstrous "denaming" is none other than Frankenstein, who, on destroying the female monster, walks "like a restless spectre" (167) and calls his own action "unhallowed" (1831: 247), a desecration. In a monstrous parody of the Hindu ritual of scattering the bones and ashes of the dead into the water, he carries the "remains of the half-finished creature" (167) in his boat and, in total darkness, drops them into the sea.

This rejection of the Monster by Frankenstein is complete at the very outset and, as the Monster's account of Frankenstein's "journal of the four months" (126) before his creation shows, he was rejected by his creator during the process of creation itself. As an act of willful self-defiance, an egotistical expression of the impossible, the creation, for Frankenstein, was an end in itself. The creator, like Volney's Legislator, embodied only abstract qualities of Reason, Law, Justice, and Freedom, not their emotional or social significance. The release of the created into history, into the social order, was not of any consequence whatsoever to him. It is the failure of social responsibility, the failure to be a "mother" to be able to repeat the mother's role beyond that of a mechanical creator, to be able to love even the deformed child, that finally leads to Frankenstein's enormous failure. Unlike James Whale's version, where the Monster's actions are explained in crude geneticist terms (after all, he was given a criminal's abnormal brain), in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein it is social "misconditioning," a kind of racist exclusion of the Other, that leads to the Monster's rejection. Frankenstein is like Mrs. Moritz, who "through a strange perversity" (60), could not love her third child Justine.

The rejection also leads to a failure to express in language one's feelings. The "release" of the Monster from the labyrinths of the unconscious only leads to feelings that cannot be objectified. "I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt" (80), "My abhorrence of this fiend cannot be conceived" (87), are not uncommon expressions of Frankenstein. The failure to objectify in language, the failure to represent -- issues central to the aesthetics of the sublime -- is finally confronted almost midway through Frankenstein's own narrative. In rewriting the chapter in which the encounter between Frankenstein and the Monster really occurs, Mary Shelley rewrote her discourse in much more centrally sublime terms. The first paragraph of volume 2, chapter 2 (10) is extensively rewritten for the 1831 edition. Part of the editing reflects Mary's desire to exclude {219} Frankenstein's father and Elizabeth from the narrative at this juncture, but more important, the rewriting reflects a conscious reworking of the discourse along distinctly Romantic/Kantian lines. It is not that Mary was not aware of the existence of the sublime. In the 1818 text the "sublime and magnificent scenes" give Frankenstein the "greatest consolation" (91). In the 1831 rewriting the emphasis shifts from sheer "magnificence" and "consolation" to the vast mountains and huge precipice, in fact to the "colossal."

The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking, reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and tom, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. (1831: 249)
The same version of the Romantic sublime haunts Frankenstein's sleep. When he is asleep, the sublime functions like the ministers of dreams; awake, a "dark melancholy" takes over. It is important for Mary Shelley to get the setting right. Already, in 1823, she had made a number of changes to the Thomas copy of the text at this point in the narrative. In place of the sublime as the "absolutely .Feat," we now meet the sublime as the extremities of human experience, as the distorted reflection of one's own self, as the apocalyptic side of the living man. Against Frankenstein's predictable 'denamings" through "shape," "sight tremendous and abhorred," "Devil," "vile insect," and "daemon" -- terms meant to exclude the Monster from the realms of the rational, the human -- the Monster effectively says, But I am you, I am indissolubly bound to you, I am the destructive potential, the return of the repressed, the chaos you have artificially kept in check.
Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. (95)
The Miltonic connection is far too obvious. What is not so clear is whether the Monster is in fact saying that whereas God created Adam, you created Satan. It is this strange reversal that Franken- {220} stein is unwilling to see. And the Monster knows it. He puts his "hated hands" before Frankenstein's eyes so that he is not forced to see. But hear he must a tale of primal beginnings, an allegory of humanity's own history superimposed on the Other. It is the postmodern history of humans in a world bereft of meaning, a world where narratives collapse on one another.

"My form is a filthy type of your's [sic], more horrid from its very resemblance" (126), reminds the Monster, and the collapse of the creator and the created gets more and more marked. The collapse involves Mary Shelley herself as the first reader of the monster's "educational" texts: Volney's Ruins, Goethe's Werter, Plutarch's Lives, and Milton's Paradise Lost. Like Frankenstein, the Monster, too, cannot describe the horrible expressions on people's faces when they see him: "Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me?" (131).

Upon introducing himself the Monster immediately inscribes himself into the semiotic code of the "fallen angel." He repeats this in his own tale, when he describes his experiences with people as a hell that he bore within him "like the arch fiend" (132). Toward the end of his own narrative, these words of the Monster come to haunt Frankenstein: "I was cursed by some devil, and carried about me my eternal hell" (201), varied a few pages later to "like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell" (208). Frankenstein adopts the discourse of the Monster only to extend the metaphor of Satan and hell to include Satan's overreaching ambition to supplant God. What happens in the process is that the crucial signifiers constantly return to Frankenstein as the signified, as the person whose life and language is an echo of everything else that happens around him. The subject, Frankenstein, constantly gets fragmented and transformed.

The fragmentation of the subject Frankenstein finally takes us to Mary Shelley herself and the problem of feminine representation in a patriarchal discourse. If, as Mary Jacobus says, the emphasis should really be placed "on woman as a writing-effect instead of an origin,"75 then we must ask ourselves how Mary Shelley herself negotiates the "unauthored" Gothic discourse of patriarchy she has inherited. What does the female Gothicist do with a tale about the sublime as the absolutely unpresentable, the desecration of the processes of creation itself?. What can the female Gothicist do with the masculine sublime and its master texts (Plutarch, Milton, Goethe)? What happens when the discourse of ends presented through the melancholic sublime (Mathilda) or the {221} apocalyptic sublime (The Last Man) now gets reimaged as the filthy technology of mechanical (re)production? We return to where we began, to the woman in Mary Shelley. With this in mind, I should like to take up these issues, finally, by examining two moments of the female in the text. The first is the moment surrounding the ill-fated design to construct a female monster. The second moment is the "rape" of Elizabeth Lavenza by the Monster.

The Monster's tale ends with an impassioned plea:

. . . but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create. (140)
The demand for "a creature of another sex, but as hideous" (142) by the Monster is initially accepted by Frankenstein as a proper course of action to take to bring the Monster's reign of terror to an end. But the request for a female monster, it seems to me, shifts, for the moment, the role of a creator as inscribed in a text (Frankenstein) to the creator of the text outside (Mary Shelley). Would Mary Shelley create an embodiment of the monstrous woman, as James Whale with his sanitized version of the female monster was to do in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)? In this film, one recalls, the bride is actually played by the actress who plays the part of Mary Shelley, the narrator. After initially acceding to the Monster's request, Frankenstein/Mary Shelley has cold feet. The reasons given for the destruction of the partly formed female monster are as follows. She might become even more fiendish and destructive than the male monster; she might be disgusted by him and turn to "the superior beauty of man" (163); the two of them might start a colony of monsters in whatever new world they may come to inhabit, worries that invade Ridley Scott's Blade Runner as well. Yet to form the female monster, to create a woman who is "de-formed," would threaten the norms of male representational rules that require women not to be monsters. The only way in which this law can be subverted, the sublime as the articulation of the monstrous female demonstrated, is to leave the production of the female fragmented, a trace, a disturbance in the text. Again Mary Shelley finds herself in a double bind, since the consequence of her refusal to accede leads to her own destruction as the other woman, Elizabeth Lavenza, who does have a legitimate place in the text as Frankenstein's lover. We, therefore, move to our second moment, the moment of the "rape" of Elizabeth.

{222} Defeated, the Monster pronounces: "I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night" (166). Frankenstein takes this as a threat to his own person and accepts the Gothic double entendre stoically enough. What the Monster is in fact saying is, I shall displace you on your wedding night, I shall dislodge the place you occupy, I will usurp the place of the signifier. All this makes sense in a Lacanian psychoanalytical economy, since the signified below the signifier/signified algorithm is always threatening to usurp the stronger position of the signifier. But in usurping that position, the "detour" the Monster, as signifier, must take is to kill the woman whom Frankenstein will not recreate, as a female monster (resurrecting the dream he had on the Monster's creation), for him. The plight of woman as the female monster-to-be -- she cannot be represented and must be further mutilated -- is repeated as the death of woman/Mary Shelley in the Gothic. The female Gothic makes its entry by removing women completely from the text itself. But the representation of the Monster's brutal act of violation is the classic literary representation of rape. It is the form that had stalked Gothic discourse ever since Fuseli's "The Nightmare" (1782), where we see the figure of a woman lying on her back, her head thrown back, her arms flung loosely toward the floor. The succubus sitting on the woman's belly and the horse protruding its head through the curtain graphically reinforce this reading. Frankenstein's description of Elizabeth's death duplicates Fuseli:

She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair. Every where I turn I see the same figure -- her bloodless arms and relaxed form flung by the murderer on its bridal bier. (193)
For Mary Shelley, entry into the received male discourse of the Gothic requires her to confront in an uncompromising fashion two of its central themes, the theme of female violation and the theme of the rendition of women as the source of birth. In radically renegotiating these, she subverts them through an excess that carves open both the sexual and "procreative" threats to women. The two unpresentable moments of the sublime -- the moment of mutilated birth (and its double deformation through Frankenstein's destruction of the female monster), and the moment of rape -- must be graphically demonstrated with, initially, a conscious collusion with forms of discursive representationalism one associ- {223} ates with the male Gothic order. But the aim of this collusion (to defy/deny sexuality/womanhood) is to push representation itself to the level of the sublime and disorientate it. This disorientation, this violence to the domain of aesthetics, requires that Mary Shelley present the creation of the Monster both as a desecration of the divine act and as a de-formation of such magnitude that neither the process not its product can be grasped. To underline this desecration/decreation she must repeat the process of creation, destroy it before it is formed as woman, so as to doubly desecrate/decreate. And then, finally, to make the Monster act out the ultimate threat to woman -- the threat of rape -- the monstrosity of the Monster acquires such a dimension that his presence is effectively removed from consciousness as he becomes, in short, the sublime. The absolutely great, the Gothic colossus, now silences the beautiful. There can be no return to the harmonies of the beautiful because the violence done to the imagination leaves us totally fractured. In this respect the Monster is literature's grand vision of the sublime.


1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, ed., with variant readings, intr., and notes, by James Rieger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). Citations are taken from both the 1818 and 1831 texts and, where they occur in only one of these texts, the appropriate edition is indicated.

2. Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree. The History of Science Fiction (London: Paladin Grafton Books, 1988), 38, 44-45, 51, 55.

3. The Journals of Mary Shelley 1814-1844, 2 vols., eds. Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 2, 439. Hereinafter cited as Journals.

4. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. James Rieger, 227, note 13.

5. Oswei Temkin, The Double Face of Janus and Other Essays in the History of Medicine (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 346.

6. Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987), 286, 290.

7. Oswei Temkin, 353.

8. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 20.

9. Immanuel Kant, 22.

10. Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein's Shadow (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 35. Ronald Paulson sees in the creation of the monster an allegory of the "Enlightenment-created monster" that was the French Revolution. It left behind terror and destruction because it was "disowned and misunderstood [and] created unnaturally by reason rather than love." See Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution (1789-1820) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), 239.

11. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. James Rieger, 6-8.

12. Patricia Yaeger, "Toward a Female Sublime," in Linda Kauffman, ed., Gender and Theory. Dialogues on Feminist Criticism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 192.

13. Abinger Papers, Dep. c. 524, letter 20. William Godwin to Mary Shelley Oct 27, 1818. Copy of letter in Mary Shelley's hand. Paper watermarked 1839.

14. Abinger Papers, Dep. c. 524, letter 23. William Godwin to Mary Shelley Sept. 9, 1819.

15. Abinger Papers, Dep. c. 524, letter 36. William Godwin to Mary Shelley Aug. 6, 1822.

16. Abinger Papers, Dep. c. 524, letter 41. William Godwin to Mary Shelley Nov. 15, 1822.

17. Abinger Papers, Dep. c. 524, file 7, letter 42. William Godwin to Mary Shelley Tuesday, Feb. 18 [1823].

18. Quarterly Review, 18 (January 1818), 382.

19. Quarterly Review 18, 382.

20. Quarterly Review 18, 385.

21. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 2 (1818), 613-20.

22. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 2, 613.

23. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 2, 614.

24. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 3 (1818), 649.

25. Monthly Review 85 (April 1818), 439.

26. Edinburgh Review 19 (March 1818), 252.

27. Edinburgh Review 19, 253.

28. Athenaeum (Nov. 10, 1832), 730.

29. Athenaeum (Nov. 10, 1832), 730.

30. Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution (1789-1820), 246.

31. Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, trans. Angus Davidson, foreword by Frank Kerrnode, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 116.

32. Mario Praz, 115.

33. Ellen Moers, Literary Women (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1976), 90-110.

34. Ellen Moers, 90.

35. Ellen Moers, 92.

36. U. C. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," in George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher, eds., The Endurance of Frankenstein. Essays on Mary Shelleys Novel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 90.

37. Ellen Moers, 93.

38. Ellen Moers, 99.

39. U. C. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," 91-92.

40. Quoted in Lee Sterrenburg, "Mary Shelley's Monster: Politics and Psyche in Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein, 147.

41. Illustration reprinted in Chris Baldick, 23.

42. Tait's Magazine (March 1837), reprinted in The Collected Works of Thomas De Quincey, ed. David Masson (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1890), 3, 25.

43. Quoted by Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein's Shadow, 22.

44. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), 221.

45. Leslie Tannenbaum, "From Filthy Type to Truth: Miltonic Myth in Frankenstein," Keats-Shelley Journal 26 (1977), 112-13. Ronald Paulson concludes, "Frankenstein's monster is the ultimate in the mergers we have seen of man and woman, father and son, master and servant, oppressor and oppressed, violence and victim: an amalgam that includes Victor Frankenstein, the monster's creator and double." Representations of Revolution, 247.

46. Robert Kiely, The Romantic Novel in England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), 164.

47. Judith Wilt, Ghosts of the Gothic. Austen, Eliot, & Lawrence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 62.

48. Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), chap. 4.

49. Joyce Carol Oates, "Frankenstein's Fallen Angel," Critical Inquiry, 10, 3 (March 1984), 552.

50. Margaret Homans, Bearing the Word. Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women's Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 111.

51. Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, and Harold Bloom, The Ringers in the Tower. Studies in Romantic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971). See Margaret Homans, 116ff.

52. Margaret Homans, 117.

53. See Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own: British Novelists from Bronte to Lessing (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).

54. Frances L. Rostuccia, "Female Gothic Writing: 'Under Cover to Alice,'" Genre 18 (Fall 1986), 245.

55. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 90.

56. Frances L. Rostuccia, 248. According to William Veeder [Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. The Fate of Androgyny (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 2] the female gothicist in Mary Shelley's novels might also reflect the author's lifelong concern with the psychological ideal of androgyny and its opposite, bifurcation.

57. Paul O'Flinn, "Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein," Literature and History 9, 2 (Autumn 1983), 194.

58. Abinger Papers, MS Shelley adds c. 12, fol. 9: January 1818

	Frankenstein:     3v No. 500
To author     6
Reviewers     16
Claimed under copyright     11
Booksellers who took 25     8 -- 41/459 @10/6 -- £240.19.6

Expenses off printing as annexed 115.18

125. 1.6

To author 1/3 £ 41.13.10

Publisher 2/3 83. 7. 8 125. 1.6

59. Richard Brinsley Peake, Frankenstein: A melo-dramatic Opera in 3 Acts, The Huntington Library, MS. Cat. LA 2359. All references are to this manuscript.

60. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennett (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 1, 378.

61. The phrase is Chris Baldick's (86).

62. Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970), 219.

63. Quoted in Rob Wilson, American Sublime (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), 193.

64. David Ketterer, Frankenstein's Creation: The Book, The Monster, and Human Reality (Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria English Literary Studies, 1979), 12: "Clearly, we are to understand that the novel and the monster are both in a sense dream creations."

65. Peter Brooks, "Godlike Science/Unhallowed Arts: Language and Monstrosity in Frankenstein," New Literary History 9, 3 (Spring 1978), 602.

66. Peter Brooks, 605.

67. Chauncey C. Loomis, "The Arctic Sublime," in U. C. Knoepflmacher and G. B. Tennyson, eds., Nature and the Victorian Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 96.

68. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, trans. and intr. by J. M. Cohen (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985), 17.

69. Rousseau, 19.

70. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism," Critical Inquiry 12, 1 (Autumn 1985), 255.

71. There is a faint echo of Frankenstein in George Eliot's Lydgate. In Middlemarch we come across a startling anecdotal narrative (2, 15) about Lydgate, who was then studying in Paris and preoccupied with "some galvanic experiments. "He falls in love with Laure, a dark actress from Provençale who, during the course of a melodrama, which Lydgate was in the habit of viewing as often as he could, mortally stabs her actor-lover on stage. Lydgate is convinced of her innocence -- it was an accident in a far too realistic rendition of a melodrama -- and proposes to marry her when she confesses, "My foot really slipped. . . . I meant to do it." Like Frankenstein, Lydgate, too, returns to galvanism after a terrible personal ordeal.

72. Sander L. Gilman, "Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature," Critical Inquiry, 12, 1 (Autumn 1985), 213. Confronted by the outrageous show of sexual affection on the part of a young man and a novice, the Superior's horrified attitude is explained by the narrator in Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972, 207) as a disgust comparable to seeing "the horrible loves of the baboons and the Hottentot women."

73. Paul Sherwin, "Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe," PMLA 96, 5 (October 1981), 885.

74. Mary Jacobus, "Is There a Woman in This Text?" New Literary History 14, 1 (Autumn 1982), 138.

75. Mary Jacobus, 138. Bette London takes up the question of the "discomposure of masculinity" in a slightly different manner. She refers to the way in which a particular version of the "sensationalized body" (the version associated with questions of specularity) is represented through the discourse of the female. This coding is then deployed by Mary Shelley upon "the normative construction of masculinity" so that the novel focuses not so much on "the spectacle of female monstrosity but on the extravagant fantasies of a deficient masculinity." In short, the troubling and troubled male body (captured so well in Louis-Edouard Fournier's 1889 iconography of Shelley's cremation) can be represented only if it is supported by the scaffolding of an unstable discourse of the female. See Bette London, "Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity," PMLA, 108, 2 (March 1993), 262-65.