Contents Index

Feminism and Editing Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: The Editor And?/Or? the Text

Betty T. Bennett

In Palimpsest: Editorial Theory in the Humanities, ed. George Bornstein and Ralph G. Williams (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1993), pp. 67-96

{67} To consider the relationship between literary theory and editorial theory in terms of the connection between feminist theory and the editing of Mary Shelley broaches, at best, an incipient topic. Outside of relatively recent essays and isolated examples of applied theory in editions of women's work, literary theory has had to date remarkably little influence on editorial theory, particularly regarding female authors. Nor, again with a few recent exceptions, have feminist theorists broached the topic of editing. Mary Shelley studies, as they have evolved over some twenty years, offer numerous examples of difficulties that have arisen in part through the separation of feminist and editorial theory. The most salient of these failings has been viewing Mary Shelley's works through a single prism and without reliance on a factually evidenced context of her own works and era. Inherent in these deficiencies is the ongoing literary problem of the construction of an authoritative foundation of factual research as the operative rationale for all texts. As much because of her actual accomplishments as because she has received extensive theoretical attention without the benefit of her entire corpus edited and available, Mary Shelley, taken as a "case study," provides a revealing example of the need for feminist critics to redefine the role of feminist editors in the establishment of a feminist canon, both past and future.

Without doubt, feminist theorists have stimulated great interest in Mary Shelley, concentrating primarily on Frankenstein with occasional reference to some of Mary Shelley's other works. As a result, new perspectives and theories have brought fresh, provocative meanings to Frankenstein. It is all the more regrettable, therefore, that specific essays on {68} Mary Shelley by feminist critics are generally undistinguishable from nonfeminist essays in being centered in prefabricated agendas rather than reliably centered in Mary Shelley scholarship. As a consequence, Mary Shelley for the most part has been reduced to an author with a single book and a single theme, her particular, complex voice located outside of the larger literary discourse of our civilization.

The thesis of such feminist critics seems to emanate from an insistence that gender as a category is more important than any biographical or individual distinctions. Consequently these critics posit a single theory that places all women writers in response and opposition to an assumed single powerful male voice that dominates Western culture. They assume that all male writers represent and reflect mainstream society; that they are all "powerful" rather than that they themselves, like Blake and Shelley, often work against the mainstream. Clearly, this premise itself is open to serious interrogation. Further, the presumption of a monolithic interpretation of experience for female or male ironically reflects the very God- or authority-centered view of existence that so many feminist critics denounce.

From the present predicament of non-gender-specific editorial principles, exceedingly gender-specific feminist theories, and with a steady focus on "the thing itself"1 -- Mary Shelley's letters, journals, fiction, and editorial work -- I will hazard to piece together some principles regarding editorial theory and feminist perspectives. The diverse parts I will discuss are (1) feminist theory, (2) general editorial theory, (3) feminist editorial theory, (4) Mary Shelley as a case study, (5) the editor as shaper/creator or "an agenda re: editing gender." I hope separate elements come together more successfully here than they did in Victor Frankenstein's more overreaching bricolage.

The limitations of current feminist literary theory in dealing with Mary Shelley reflect its drift from the ideas that inspired that theory and that I believe remain its foundation: the sociopolitical agenda of feminism. Cynthia Ozick, in two essays she prefaces as "at odds with their times" and "against the grain of academic expectation," offers a definition of "classical feminism": "Classical feminism-i.e., feminism at its origin, when it saw itself as justice and aspiration made universal, as mankind widened to humankind -- rejected anatomy not only as destiny, but as any sort of governing force. . . . Classical feminism was conceived of as an end of false barriers and boundaries; as the end of segregationist fictions and restraints; as the end of the Great Multiple Lie."2 Ozick was {69} compelled to reassert her 1977 definition in 1983 in the face of a feminist theory that had become, for her, a segregationist "Ovarian Theory of Literature"3 that reduced all women's thought to the single perspective and theme of writing, thinking, and seeing solely as a function of being a woman. Her concern that all of feminist theory was unified within this one reductionist school of thought would find little alleviation in the agendas of the feminist factions of the 1990s.

But she is not now alone in questioning the "Ovarian" premise or the battalions entrenched on both sides of that dispute. The editors of a 1990 volume titled Conflicts in Feminism sum up the current situation: "Discussions within feminist theory today are racked by intense conflicts. While feminists have in principle tended to agree that difference is a more productive theoretical and political category than either universalizing consensus or divisive oppositions, in practice, actual differences within feminist discourse have tended to erupt into separate camps. . . . The need for a probing and reflective analysis of divisive issues in feminism today has come to assume urgent proportions."4 What groups represent the polarities that threaten "to foreclose rather than stimulate debate"? 5 They appear to be clustered around two schools: the Anglo-Americans and the French.

Toril Moi has admirably analyzed the opposing views, within a context of "open discussion of differing perspectives" that has as its "principal objective" the political aim "to expose, not to perpetuate, patriarchal practices."6 On the one side, represented in Moi's discussion by the critic Elaine Showalter, are proponents of the Anglo-American school. Characteristically, these writers have "a unitary vision" (as opposed to "pluralist viewpoints") that expects and requires that a text reflect the autobiographical experience, both intellectual and physical, of the female as female. According to Moi, that paradigm female is in fact the "I" of a "particular class and experience" (p. 2) and "allies itself with Georg Lukacs" in favoring the form of writing known as "critical or bourgeois realism" (p. 4). For this school, "political art is limited to the struggle against sexism" (p. 4) and has as an unspoken premise that "a literary text" should "yield the reader a certain security, a firm perspective from which to judge the world" (p. 9).

The rival feminist view adheres to the French critical posture as voiced by such critics as Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous, and Julia Kristeva. They regard the "integrated self" as a "phallic self" that refuses "all conflict, contradiction and ambiguity" (pp. 4-5), that is, that refuses the difference {70} of the female. If the Anglo-Americans are rooted in bourgeois realism, the French take their cue from, and add to, Derridian deconstructivist theory, which argues language "is structured as an endless deferral of meaning, and any search for an essential, absolutely stable meaning must therefore be considered metaphysical" (p. 9). Thus, traditional, largely male-constructed and dominated literary theory and writing may be reconstructed and reviewed to include the context of female literary theory and writing, the two to form one continuing cycle of deferral and multiplicity.

The critic Julia Kristeva formulates from this deferral the concept of a "revolutionary" writing that "breaks through the strict rational defenses of conventional social meaning" (p. 11). In contrast to the feminist biographists, Kristeva does not tie revolutionary potential to biological sex, but to the position of the individual within a three-tiered scale of feminist struggle that depicts the stages of feminism as (1) political equality and liberty; (2) a rejection of the male order in favor of the female; (3) Kristeva's own avowed position: "Women reject the dichotomy between masculine and feminine as metaphysical" (p. 12).

Given the proliferation and intellectual achievements of feminist theory in the past ten years, it is reasonable to consider how such theorizing has positioned Mary Shelley in the current development of the canon. Perhaps I should emend this proposition to read, how such theorizing has positioned Mary Shelley and Frankenstein in the current development of the canon -- with a quick nod to her third novel, The Last Man. The two most well-known feminist critical approaches to Mary Shelley occur in Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's 1979 The Madwoman in the Attic and Mary Poovey's 1984 The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer. I will also consider a third highly noted discussion of Mary Shelley in Mary Jacobus's essay, "Is there a woman in this text?"

Gilbert and Gubar's work assumes some of the formulations of two earlier, pioneering studies in feminist theory: Patricia Meyer Spacks's 1975 The Female Imagination7 and Ellen Moers's 1977 Literary Women: The Great Writers.8 While suggesting that "it is by no means true that books by women necessarily differ vividly from books by men," Spacks remarks that "there appears to be something that we might call a woman's point of view . . . a vague enough phenomenon, doubtless the result mainly of social conditioning, but an outlook sufficiently distinct to be recognizable through the centuries" (pp. 2-3). Spacks's subject, then, is "the female imagination"; her goal, "to find the themes that have absorbed {71} female minds during the past three centuries as recorded in literature written in English. Surely the mind has a sex, minds learn their sex -- and it is no derogation of the female variety to say so. At any rate, for readily discernible historical reasons women have characteristically concerned themselves with matters more or less peripheral to male concerns, or at least slightly skewed from them. The differences between traditional female preoccupations and roles and male ones make a difference in female writing" (pp. 5-6). There are two controlling premises in Spacks's study: there exists a specifically female mind; and there exists a commonality of subject matter "peripheral to male concerns." Spacks apparently does not find Mary Shelley, however important Frankenstein, to be among the "female minds" of the past three centuries since she entirely omits her from consideration.

Ellen Moers begins her discussion by indicating that she will explore the works of "the major women writers, writers we read and shall always read whether interested or not in the fact that they happened to be women. But the fact of their sex is, frankly, fascinating -- one of those facts which raise questions, open perspectives, illuminate and explain" (p. xi). Her basic, guiding questions are: "What did it matter that so many of the great writers of modern times have been women? What did it matter to literature?" (p. xi). Akin to Spacks, Moers limits those great writers to an activity of creation in which they "have always chosen brilliantly, individually, imaginatively among the varying feminine facets of the human condition; and transformed this material, along with all the other materials a writer uses, into literature" (p. xiv).

From this perspective, Moers considers Mary Shelley within the "female Gothic" tradition, crediting Frankenstein as the work that "made the Gothic novel over into what today we call science fiction" (p. 139). Moers grants Mary Shelley's remarkable family heritage, her "easy access to the writings and conversation of some of the most original minds of her age,' and her own intellect and talent (p. 140). According to Moers, "Mary Shelley was a unique case, in literature as in life" (p. 141). But Moers appears to ignore these very attributes in confining her discussion of Frankenstein entirely in terms of birth myth. She argues that "nothing so sets her apart from the generality of writers of her own time, and before, and for long afterward, [as] her early and chaotic experience, at the very time she became an author, with motherhood. Pregnant at sixteen, and almost constantly pregnant throughout the following five years; yet not a secure mother for she lost most of her babies soon after {72} they were born; and not a lawful mother, for she was not married -- not at least when, at the age of eighteen, Mary Godwin began to write Frankenstein. So are monsters born" (p. 140).

That Mary Shelley was pregnant for most of her years with Shelley is true. But this is to assume in Moers's context that Mary Shelley was unhappy about those pregnancies, while Mary Shelley's Journal and Letters suggest otherwise. I will not quibble with the assertion that the Shelley babies died "soon after they were born." The first child died within two weeks; the second, at the age of eighteen months; the third, at the age of three. But during that famous summer at Lake Geneva when Mary Shelley began her masterpiece, though she had suffered that first loss, she had not only the company of Shelley, Byron, and Claire Clairmont but also the Shelleys' beloved son William, then six months old and thriving. By the publication of the novel in 1818, William was two; and Clara, born on 2 September 1817, was also quite healthy. Indeed, Mary Shelley's letters during this period spoke with marked pleasure of the growth of their "two pretty babes."9 In short, in order to refract all of Mary Shelley's work through the single prism of birth myth, Moers appears to ignore or limit her consideration of all the other actual events of Mary Shelley's life. The single prism is also probably the source of Moers's treatment of Mary Shelley as "unique," removing Mary Shelley from the larger Enlightenment-Romantic tradition, which in turn also offers illuminating insights into the author and her works.

Nor did Mary Shelley's authorial life first begin when she eloped with Shelley. Her Journal shows that on that journey, she carried with her manuscripts of her own works. Her self-description in the introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein reports that she wrote at an early age. Further evidence of the precocity surfaced in 1980 in the recognition that Monsieur Nongtongpaw, a parody written by Mary Shelley when she was eleven years old, was not only published in 1809 but was reprinted at least three times.10

Certainly, the facts of Mary Shelley's life and the text of the novel far surpass a single birth-myth interpretation, though birth is both a useful and a common metaphor for creativity. Moers's birth metaphor, while not precluded from use by male writers, certainly provides one important metaphor through which to interpret the works of women writers. An awareness of an author's gender may well illuminate interpretation of that author, but gender privileged over all other aspects of analysis often leads to a single focal point that limits rather than amplifies interpre- {73} tation. Given Mary Shelley's life, the birth metaphor seems particularly useful and suggestive. In itself, however, it is insufficient because Mary Shelley's works give voice to many complicated theories and ideas, one of the most important among them the sociopolitical restructuring of the society. By reducing Frankenstein to a single theme, Moers gives us a Mary Shelley whose art appears unable to transcend her biological experiences. This approach, which sets limits on the human imagination, seems to continue Victorian social mores that attempted to interpret all women as domestic (whether "angelic" or otherwise), rather than expand that vision through a representation of the larger scope and equality of achievement due Mary Shelley and other female writers.

Connecting Spacks's insistence on the categorical separateness of female writers with Moers's interest in themes of birth and creation, The Madwoman in the Attic discusses nineteenth-century works by Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Emily Dickinson (p. xii). The book finds a "coherence of theme and imagery . . . in the works of writers who were often geographically, historically, and psychologically distant from each other" (p. xi). As a result, they located a "distinctively female literary tradition" of women who "in life and in art" were "literally and figuratively confined by an overwhelmingly male-dominated society[;] these literary women were also, inevitably, trapped in the specifically literary constructs of what Gertrude Stein was to call 'patriarchal poetry.' For not only did a nineteenth-century woman writer have to inhabit ancestral mansions (or cottages) owned and built by men, she was also constricted and restricted by the Palaces of Art and House of Fiction male writers authored" (p. xi).

In response to "patriarchal Western culture" (p. 6) in which "the author/father is owner of his text and of his reader's attention," in which the "pen is a metaphorical penis" (p. 7), before imprisoned women "can even attempt that pen . . . they must escape just those male texts which, defining them as 'Cyphers,' deny them the autonomy to formulate alternatives" (p. 13) to the male forces that imprison them. A woman writer must "transcend the extreme images of 'angel' and 'monster' which male authors have generated for her" (p. 17). Thus, for Gilbert and Gubar, women develop a monolithic literary tradition of response to male texts in which "Jane Austen and Mary Shelley to Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson produced literary works that are in some sense palimpsestic, works whose surface designs conceal or obscure deeper, less accessible (and less socially acceptable) levels of meaning" (p. 73).

{74} Gilbert and Gubar's palimpsestic premise often yields fascinating insights. Not having studied any of the other authors they interpret to the degree I have studied Mary Shelley, I cannot comment on whether their premise and resultant analyses are appropriate for the other women writers they consider, though other critics, such as Julia Prewitt Brown, have specifically done so.11 But in the case of Mary Shelley, I believe that just as with Moers, Gilbert and Gubar have redesigned and narrowed Mary Shelley to fit their premise. The crux of their argument is that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein wholly responds to "the male culture myth of Paradise Lost" (p. 220) and functions as "a female fantasy of sex and reading, . . . a gothic psychodrama reflecting Mary Shelley's own sense of what we might call bibliogenesis" (p. 224); and that "in her alienated attic workshop of filthy creation she has given birth to a deformed book, a literary abortion or miscarriage" (p. 233).

In an admiring review of the Madwoman in 1979,l2 I credited it as a provocative point of reference for future Mary Shelley studies. But the very accomplishments of the Madwoman have given it an ascendancy of influence in feminist studies that has obscured its critical limitations in terms of Mary Shelley. In the Madwoman, which suggests the creature as minority or suppressed figure only in so far as she is female, Gilbert and Gubar do not represent Mary Shelley as a writer with her own developed and developing intellectual and aesthetic perspective, but only as a woman obsessed with childbirth-as-horror to the point that, functioning not only as the central metaphor of Frankenstein, it also becomes her central subject. Instead of the struggling artist, we are given the author-as-victim. We must accept Mary Shelley either as unconsciously possessed by horrific experiences of the birth-deaths of her own children and her half-sister or as conscious of these horrific experiences but too fearful to write of them openly, and therefore forced to encoded expression.

Gilbert and Gubar's interpretation relies on selecting data from Mary Shelley's life and novels that meet their prescribed agenda and omitting or misreading data that would seriously counter their narrow representation, which denies the complexity and scope of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. Indeed, with sufficient study, it may be credibly argued that Frankenstein would no longer be "unique" either in terms of her other novels or as an important Romantic work.

A few representative instances of the problems in the Madwoman suggest the difficulty Gilbert and Gubar's thesis encounters in treating {75} Mary Shelley, and better situate Mary Shelley feminist criticism as it stands today. For example, the authors describe Mary Shelley as an "orphaned literary heiress" (p. 222). In one brief phrase, they kill off William Godwin, her remaining parent and, at the same time, remove from consideration Godwin's very important influence on Mary Shelley both in terms of his own work and her mother's.

Just as Mary Shelley can be credited with preserving and editing Shelley's works after his death, Godwin performed the same function for Mary Wollstonecraft. To the consternation of Godwin's second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft's portrait hung in the Godwin home and her achievements remained preeminent to Godwin and his circle throughout his long life. Mary Shelley, among her considerable youthful reading, read and reread both her parents' works. One cannot read Godwin's novels, most notably Caleb Williams, without recognizing the important influence he had on Mary Shelley as author. Furthermore, there exists demonstrable evidence that Godwin expected his daughter to be an author and encouraged her toward this end. Godwin, who wrote with remarkable candor of the love affair of his beloved wife and her earlier lover, had a regard for his daughter's "genius" that must be taken as far more than a father's affection for his daughter. Indeed, it was Godwin who first submitted his eleven-year-old daughter's first work for publication. 13 To ignore his important influence, therefore, seriously mars interpretation of both Mary Shelley's life and works.

Although they cite the Journals, Gilbert and Gubar do not seem to consider this major source as a whole. Yet the Journals, readily available if somewhat incomplete, since 1947, 14 trace, from the Shelleys' elopement in 1814 until 1844, significant and telling details and insights regarding Mary Shelley's life and works. Had they studied the work in depth, they would almost certainly have been forced at least to reposition their conclusions about Mary Shelley. And the then-available 700 published letters of Mary Shelley, 15 as well as works by and about Shelley and Godwin, would have provided further context in which theories specific to Mary Shelley might be more soundly formulated.

Problems of fact and context occur throughout Gilbert and Gubar's discussion of Mary Shelley. The object here, however, is not to detail or respond to them, but to address the restrictive influence of this line of feminist criticism on Mary Shelley studies. In dislocating Mary Shelley from her own context in order to fit her into their paradigm, Gilbert and Gubar relocate her in a Victorian house, with the angel in the house {76} now the invalid in the house. Such a depiction suggests that the only art women can produce is, as Ozick terms it, ovarian.

While it is true that Mary Shelley lived part of her adult life consciously a captive of Victorian sociopolitical mores, her first and formative home was built of the radical, reformist theories of both her parents. In Shelley, she found for herself a partner who was himself a disciple of her parents and their era. With Shelley, she grew, learned, explored, and shaped her own voice and life. Her works, and Shelley's, emanate from their own individual creativity as well as the influence of their circle. The failure of The Madwoman to place Mary Shelley within her historical framework as a product of, and contributor to, Enlightenment, Romantic, and reform ideology; as an author who had the intellectual and emotional brilliance to analyze and conceptualize her own era and to envision the hazards of an industrialized Britain; and as one who condemned injustice to both women and men ironically removes her from the position she deserves: in the mainstream Romantic canon, an author whose works should be assigned and studied along with Shelley, Byron, and Keats.

Unfortunately, Gilbert and Gubar's narrow interpretation will influence perhaps generations of Mary Shelley readers through their Norton Anthology of Literature by Women.16 Their introduction presents a pathetic Mary Shelley after Shelley's death by selecting from her Journal, passages that talk of her misery. But they omit from their discussion passages from those same pages that express the centrality of her writing, even during this period of pain and acute loss, which reflect a self-conscious authorial perspective found throughout her Journals and her letters. The short story "The Mortal Immortal" included as representative "expressed her anguished sense of having survived what seemed to be the deaths of almost everyone around her," a theme echoed in Mary Shelley's novel The Last Man. Thus, this selection reaffirms the editors' perspective of Mary Shelley expressed in The Madwoman.17 It would surely have been also useful for readers to know that however biographically resonant the story and Mary Shelley's novel The Last Man, the theme of the last man was a favorite topic in the fiction and poetry of the era. But this is to suggest only one of many literary discussions possible here that would serve to better define and introduce Mary Shelley and her works to readers of the anthology.

Such definition, however, did not occur in the next important feminist consideration of Mary Shelley. Mary Poovey, in her 1984 The Proper {77} Lady and the Woman Writer,18 situates Mary Shelley as the product of "eighteenth and nineteenth century English society" in which the "fundamental bourgeois society was made by and for men . . . every woman defined by her relationship to a man and to sexuality itself" (p. x). From that tradition emerged the "ideal of feminine behavior": the "Angel of the House" or "Proper Lady" (p. x). Poovey's book undertakes "to examine the shadow the Proper Lady casts across the careers of some of the women who became professional authors despite the strictures of propriety" (p. x).

Based on this premise, Poovey argues that "genius" was necessarily "restrained in works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen" and explores how that genius adapted to the role of the Proper Lady through a process of "negative virtues of 'patience, docility, good-humour and flexibility'" (p. xi). As a result, "Nearly every woman who wrote was able to internalize a self-conception at least temporarily at odds with the norm" (i.e., the Proper lady), "and the legacy of this period is a repertoire of the strategies" through which women were able to "conceive of themselves in two apparently incompatible ways or to express themselves in a code capable of being read in two ways: as acquiescence to the norm and as departure from it" (p. 41).

I will not dispute Poovey's overall premise, though I suspect some Wollstonecraft scholars might. But again, as with Gilbert and Gubar, Poovey bases her critique of Mary Shelley's works on a selectivity and interpretation reshaped to conform to her premise. Despite citations of edited scholarship, including Jones's edition of the Journals and The Letters of Mary Shelley as well as the first two volumes of my edition of The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Poovey seems not to draw upon these materials in the formulation of her theory.

Poovey argues, for example, that Mary Shelley, in her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, demonstrates the necessary "split" in women authors between their writing selves and their "inner" selves. Her proof is that Mary Shelley wrote in her introduction that she shrank from bringing herself forward in print. But Poovey justified describing the origin of the novel by its distance from Mary Shelley's real "personal" self: "as it will be confined to such topics as have connection with my authorship alone, I can scarcely accuse myself of a personal intrusion" (p. 40). In this "manifestation of the indirection, or double consciousness." according to Poovey, Mary Shelley is just one of many women {78} who achieved "recognition" in the male arena but were "unconscious of their accomplishment" or "did not fully acknowledge what they were doing" (p. 40).

But Mary Shelley's disclaimer was not at all unconscious; she knew just what she was doing. Sir Timothy Shelley, Shelley's father, had forbidden her from bringing the Shelley name or family to public notice in exchange for the repayable allowance he provided to raise her son, Percy Florence Shelley. In her monumental 1839 editions of Shelley's poetry and prose, she again consciously worked around this injunction against biography by including contextualizing notes that described Shelley's writing of the particular work. Thus, what for Poovey represents the actions of an unconscious, subservient author turns out to be a calculated means to defy Sir Timothy and to assert herself as author.

So, too, Poovey does not regard Mary Shelley's acknowledgment in the introduction of her family's expectation that she would be a writer, and Shelley's encouragement as the usual gratitude authors give those who support their efforts. Rather, they result from guilt for her own youthful audacity in entering the male arena of writing. The Victorian Mary Shelley remembers "the origin of Frankenstein in such a way as to displace most of the responsibility for what might otherwise seem willful self-assertion" (p. 141) depicting her younger self as "a pawn, like Frankenstein, of forces larger than herself" (p. 141). When Mary Shelley writes of the inspiration that "possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie" (p. x), what we might call "an inspired moment," Poovey sees a Mary Shelley who invests her scientist with the "guilt she had come to associate with her original audacity and the feeling of helplessness she had learned to invoke in order to sanction and explain that audacity" (pp. 141-42). But to assert that writing for Mary Shelley was restricted to a male activity belies her conscious heritage and her upbringing in a family, as her resentful stepsister complained, in which "if you cannot write an epic poem or a novel that by its originality knocks all other novels in the head, you are a despicable creature."19 It also ignores the ample evidence of Mary Shelley's authorial ambitions voiced throughout her letters and journals.

Poovey's judgment stems from her premise that after the 1826 The Last Man, Mary Shelley sought to "conform to conventional expectations of what a woman should be" (p. 116). Thus, her last three novels are the work of a "Victorian model of feminine domesticity" (p. 116). Two {79} brief comments: after the 1826 novel, and while she wrote her fourth novel, Mary Shelley became part of a transvestite charade that defied Victorian society by aiding and abetting two women friends of hers to pass as a married couple, Miss Mary Diana Dods becoming Mr. Walter Sholto Douglas.20 That fourth novel, Perkin Warbeck,21 has as one of its main characters a forceful young woman who pursues and aids her beloved, leads troops into battle, and neither dies nor gets that man; and a second woman, who though she loves her purportedly royal husband, challenges him with egalitarian political values akin to the Shelleys', valuing love over political power, regarding all such power as equally reprehensible.

Was Mary Shelley not at all torn by the nascent Victorian mores of the society she found herself returned to in 1823, a year after Shelley's death? Or unconscious of the limits that English society sought to place on her, personally and professionally, as a woman? On the contrary. Her acute consciousness of her situation and her varied responses to it suggest that the paradigm devised here, as with other narrow, predetermined paradigms, reduces Mary Shelley, much as many feminist critics though for different purposes accuse Victorian society itself of doing.

Mary Jacobus's essay "Is There a Woman in This Text?"22 takes up the case of the reduction or exclusion of the female, but her argument is against "textual harassment" that results from "the specular appropriation of woman or even her elimination altogether" by males (p. 119), reducing women to victim or literary devise (p. 118) and thereby denying "the specificity of female experience" (p. 119). In her conclusion, Jacobus argues that Anglo-American feminist critics, in their "flight toward empiricism" (p. 138), insist on an "unbroken continuity between 'life' and 'text"' (p. 138). For Jacobus it is equally wrong to read Frankenstein in terms of either biology or bibliogenesis, as many feminist critics do. She also argues against French feminist criticism as insisting that women are "a writing-effect instead of an origin" (p. 138). Both her points are, I believe, valid; but they apply as well to her own discussion of Frankenstein, in which she first locks Mary Shelley into an inappropriately applied oedipal interpretation, and then redesigns both author and novel accordingly.

Jacobus asserts that Mary Shelley's role as author is entirely as a pawn to "mediate relations between men," the novel being "at once a drama of Promethean scientific enquiry and of Oedipal rivalry, a myth of creation that encompasses both a quest for the origins of life and the bond {80} of love and hate between creator and creation" (p. 130). She views Mary Shelley as the victim of "predominantly Oedipal forms of Byronic and Shelleyan romanticism" (p. 130). For Jacobus, there exists no female author in Frankenstein, only "a dismembered corpse" (p. 131), the result of a writer whose "intense identification with an Oedipal conflict exists at the expense of identification with women" (p. 132).

This interpretation assumes that Mary Shelley sought to meliorate the relationship between scientist and monster rather than illustrate that both were, by their own actions and values, victims of a sociopolitical system that must result in destruction. It also ignores those characteristics of the monster, before his fall and subsequent adoption of his creator's power system, that illustrate behavior society commonly attributed to women based on the desire to give and receive love. In choosing to show the destructiveness of this system, Mary Shelley argued against the ethos of Oedipal rivalry and individual power that dominated her world and ours.23

What Jacobus means by the "Oedipal" Romanticism of Shelley remains unclear. What is clear is that Mary Shelley and Shelley advocated a new social order founded on love, not power. It is true that the women depicted in Frankenstein, and the child, are minor figures and victims. The absence of stronger roles for women in any one novel does not preclude an author who was a victim of the male ethos of power from also being a critic of that ethos. In the formulation of theories regarding Mary Shelley, or any other author, critics should reasonably be expected to read all of her novels. In fact, Mary Shelley's next novel, Valperga,24 written while Shelley was still alive, has as one of its two protagonists a female who rejects her lover because he is, though personally kind to her, a cruel political tyrant. His ruthless behavior induces the heroine to lead her political faction in war against him. Valperga consistently echoes all of Mary Shelley's novels in her exploration of power relationships and her open expression of a reformist sociopolitical advocacy that Frankenstein, among its other complex motifs, also illustrates.

In her criticism of current feminist theories as well as male-centered theories, Jacobus implicitly calls for the development of a theory in which both female and male exist. Perhaps an approach toward that goal can be found in another work by Jacobus herself. In her discussion of William Wordsworth in Romanticism, Writing, and Sexual Difference,25 much of her focus is on the poet's use of materiality, symbolized by the Alpine landscape, to express his vision of the sublimity of the individual imag- {81} ination (p. 8). Into this discussion, she brings Shelley, who "was later to insist [that] mountains are symbols of the mind's own symbol-making capacity" (p. 9). In her conclusion, she argues that "if figuration involves mutilation, the aestheticized imagination involves the restitution of an imaginary wholeness" (pp. 291-92). Jacobus asserts that Wordsworth's Prelude goes beyond autobiography in its "rhetorical attempt to bridge the figurative and insubstantial abyss which is its ground, on which it depends and from which its meanings flow. The Prelude is Romantic analogy, a naturalization of the Romantic and aesthetic ideology which it embodies" (p. 293).

Through the assumption of aesthetic and intellectual credibility, she develops an interpretation of Wordsworth's works premised on his capacity to use, and even mutilate, materiality in order, through the "aestheticized imagination," to develop an "imaginary wholeness." Autobiography is a rhetorical device, not a limitation; Wordsworth's work is "Romantic analogy." For Jacobus, Wordsworth works out of a theory of abyss and bridge-building through which humans may experience their role in the universe and may express it. Such assumptions -- aesthetic and intellectual credibility, the use of materiality by the "aestheticized imagination," the development of a means through which humans may see their world -- applied to Mary Shelley would, I suggest, yield far more accurate and useful interpretations of both author and her works.

Literary studies today are indebted to all those who early, and late, have worked to develop feminist literary theory and thereby bring unprecedented attention to women's writings to general and academic audiences alike. Important and provocative perspectives have emerged, for critic and subject. The question that faces us today is whether we are ready to move beyond the initial stages of our fight for recognition of women as authors and critics. May we better serve our own end by endorsing a view of experience that permits and validates the concept of multiple theories, trusting in our ability for intellectual perspicacity as well as for aesthetic metaphorization to express whatever our subject and our perspective may be?

In Joan W. Scott's essay advocating "Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism,"26 as the best means by which to "analyze the workings of patriarchy in all its manifestations," she asserts, "We need theory that will let us think in terms of pluralities and diversities rather than of unities and universals" (p. 134). Significant for future feminist studies, I believe, is her call for a pluralist perspective, which opens itself to intellectual {82} diversity and multiple experience. This same call may be expanded to include in the feminist experience the area of editing, which itself opens questions of diversity and multiple experience.

While schools of feminist theorists are far larger and draw more attention, there are also factions among editorial theorists that have proponents as vocal and partial. I will attempt to do no more than summarize these perspectives, with an emphasis on the relation of such theories to feminism, editorial theory, and Mary Shelley.

G. Thomas Tanselle's A Rationale of Textual Criticism27 provides a valuable survey of the current editorial debate. At its extremes, the controversy is between the critical editorial theorists who, following the long-established concepts of Fredson Bowers, emphasize authorial intention as "discrete acts of creation" that permit no emendation, even by the author, and those who support Jerome McGann's thesis that a text is collaborative, a "fundamentally social rather than personal" production.28 Between these polarities exist a range of judgments, each largely convinced there is only one text that must be edited as "definitive," though occasionally some modification would be acceptable in particular instances. For his own part, Tanselle recognizes both the contributions of the "initiating mind" (p. 29) and the historical context, and concludes that a variety of approaches, depending on the text, might be usefully employed: "There is a prima facie case for the legitimacy of more than one approach to the editorial treatment of historical evidence: editors can produce diplomatic or facsimile editions of individual documentary texts . . . or create new texts that attempt to be historically faithful either to authors' or to publishers' intentions at particular times." The recognition that all approaches to the past are partial and complementary helps one to appreciate the full complexity of the issues editors struggle with (pp. 153-54). In this, he echoes McGann's own arguments for multiplicity of approach.29

Tanselle's and McGann's conclusion -- if it were accepted -- might appear to put the larger issue of the private and the public mind to rest, leaving the perennial editorial decisions, such as exactitude of textual replication, footnote length, and so forth, for editors to argue about. Thus, editors could decide whether an original manuscript, a later emendation, a conflation of the two, an author's published revisions, and so on, might legitimately constitute the text they establish, clearly imparting their rationale for such decisions in editorial notes.

But is there a woman in this editorial theorizing? Until recently, for {83} the most part, no. While such discussions do not preclude feminist issues, with relatively few exceptions neither do they directly address them. Many of those exceptions find voice in introductions to editions of women's works or essays by editors who view themselves as feminist. Unfortunately, these are generally regarded as "particular" rather than "general" by feminists and nonfeminists alike, and isolated from larger feminist discussion. Such commentary, however, should be viewed as a major resource for illustrating the necessary connection between editorial theory and feminist scholarship, for demonstrating the altered perception that such scholarship yields, and as pertinent to establishing the editorial techniques that may be especially relevant to feminist studies.30

Donald H. Reiman, in "Gender and Documentary Editing: A Diachronic Perspective,"31 explicitly raises some of the pertinent connections between feminist and editorial theory in his discussion of gender in documentary editing of the Romantics, female and male. 32 This essay raises important editorial questions for feminist critics: should women's writing from earlier periods be "spruced up" to "compensate for their authors' lack of equal educational opportunities"? (p. 352); should one "ignore historically conditioned distinctions that were often based on gender?" (pp. 352-53). Reiman asserts that a goal of "the notes and commentaries for Shelley and His Circle" is "to be gender equitable without being gender blind," for "to assume no differences is dangerously ahistorical" (p. 353). Our responses to such complex questions will condition the canon of the future. Just as SC has evolved in its own awareness of feminist issues -- for example, Mary is now Mary Shelley (p. 354) -- feminist critics must first recognize the significant questions in the development of single or multiple renderings of a text in order, as McGann suggests, to insure "the dialectic between the historically located individual author and the historically developing institutions of literary production" (p. 127).

Some of those very questions are considered by Katie King, in "Bibliography and a Feminist Apparatus of Literary Production."33 In the interest of developing an expanded literary canon, King argues against the "literary division of labor" that "separates workers in the construction of texts from workers in the interpretation of texts" (p. 92). In the current process in which feminist textual critics engage in the "recovery" of women's texts, they have opened up enormous questions that explicitly challenge assumptions about literary value and implicitly challenge assumptions about the nature and ontology of the text" (p. 96). In {84} pointing out that traditionally, the "making" of the canon "has been reserved for specific, authorized groups of literary practitioners" (p. 97), she alerts the extensive majority of feminist critics who have ignored the importance of editorial work in the making of the canon to become conscious of its significance, and to cross that line, as teachers and critics. King's perspective certainly found earlier, though not specifically feminist voice, in McGann's discussion of bibliography and the making of the canon and the separation of the editor and the critic (pp. 180-82).

Scanning recent bibliographical studies listed in libraries under feminism and critical theory yields almost 5,000 entries. Remarkably few of these important works of feminist critical theory include discussions of the role and implications of editing for feminists.34 It is all the more important, therefore, to bring attention to the need for the larger introduction of editorial considerations into feminist discourse, given the potential significance of editing in furthering feminist criticism.

In realizing the consanguinity of critic and editor, we also must recognize other tacit assumptions that have influenced text development. The case study at hand, feminist theory and the editing of Mary Shelley, offers examples from the history of editing Mary Shelley that well illustrate how editors of documents are indeed critics who influence the reading of an author and a text.

The first editor of Mary Shelley's letters was Florence A. Marshall, given on the title page as Mrs. Julian Marshall, who in 1889 edited The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley35 at the behest of Mary Shelley's son and daughter-in-law, Sir Percy and Lady Shelley. Marshall compiled her "biography" from the manuscript journals and letters in the possession of the Shelley heirs, who "entrusted" them to the editor "without reserve" (1:v). As Marshall conceptualized this work as biography, she "shortened" previously published letters if only of "moderate interest" but "unpublished letters are given complete wherever possible." In like manner, Marshall states that on the "vexed subject of Shelley's separation from his first wife," readers will find no new evidence, but "even were this not beyond the scope of the present work it would be wrong on the strength of it to assert more than that Shelley himself felt certain of his wife's unfaithfulness" (1:vi). Perhaps Marshall believed this; but there is no question whatever that had she held a contrary judgment regarding the "vexed subject," the Shelley heirs would not have engaged her to do that edition. Indeed, the edition was certainly directed in large measure to absolving Mary Shelley from the denigrating attack {85} on her that appeared in the Shelley biography written by Edward John Trelawny.36

Therefore, we immediately require contextualizing that goes beyond the documents themselves to interpret the work in hand. Mary Shelley is credited with "character" and "intellect" that were "strong enough to affect, to modify, in some degree to mould his [Shelley's]. . . . [That] he became what he did is in great measure due to her." Further, "She would have been eminent among her sex at any time, in any circumstances, and would, it cannot be doubted, have achieved greater personal fame than she actually did but for the fact that she became, at a very early age, the wife of Shelley" (p. 2). But to what extent is it the voice of Mary Shelley's adoring children rather than Mrs. Marshall that asserts, "It is probable that no woman of like endowments and promise ever abdicated her own individuality in favour of another so transcendently greater" (p. 3). The defense rests, but entirely in the shadow of the values of Victorian England. The letters are selected and annotated within that shadow. As a result, the Romantic rebel Mary Shelley is transmuted into the Victorian passive Mary Shelley, considerably modifying potential critical perceptions regarding the relationship between Mary Shelley and her works.

Frederick L. Jones's 1944 edition of The Letters of Mary W. Shelley collected "all the available correspondence," from the Shelley heirs as well as other manuscript repositories (1:v). Despite its expanded size, a dominant Victorian perspective tacitly casts its shadow here as well. Marshall's design, albeit at the instance of the Shelley heirs, was to situate Mary Shelley as spouse, parent, and writer within a social paradigm in which wife privileges husband. But Jones presents an apologia that largely dismisses the "general quality of the letters" and "Mary Shelley's importance as a writer." For him, "It is as the wife of Shelley that she excites our interest and arouses our desire to know as much about her as we can" (1:xxix). As a result, Jones's annotations are directed almost entirely to those topics important to "illuminating the life of Shelley" (1:xxix): his life, his works, his spouse, his children. Jones grants Mary Shelley "an intellectual vigor which has yet to receive a just evaluation," even asserting that her second novel Valperga excels Frankenstein on the basis that Shelley and Godwin thought so (1:xxx). But although he edits her letters, he does not include that "just evaluation" in his edition. For Jones, Mary Shelley, writer, is merely a by-product of her association with Shelley. In this dismissal we find the rationale for Jones's {86} omission of annotations keyed to Mary Shelley's own life: her sociopolitical concerns; her intellectual and professional ambitions; her family.

My edition of The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in a sense began in 1970, when I included Frankenstein in my syllabus for an undergraduate Romantics course and was met with disbelief by male faculty colleagues. I kept the text and I kept considering the question of why I believed Frankenstein belonged in the syllabus and they regarded it as a minor work bearing little relationship to mainstream Romanticism. Three years later, my mentor suggested the need for a new edition of Mary Shelley's letters merely in order to correct the hundreds of transcription and dating errors in Jones; the project would not take very long. But re-editing the letters meant reaching for answers about Mary Shelley that went far beyond accurate transcription and beyond my own initial expectations: why did I, and some relatively few others at the time, read Frankenstein as an important Romantic work? Was it female to include it on a reading list and male not to? Most important, who was Mary Shelley, author?

Fifteen years later, and with the aid of colleagues in the United States, Europe, and Australia, my completed 1980-88 edition of The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley37 more than doubled the number of letters in Jones and is generally received as presenting a newly conceptualized, far more complex and accomplished Mary Shelley.38 In part, this revised perspective is owing to the many additional letters that revealed details of Mary Shelley's life before unknown. But there was a second critical catalyst, related not to the additional information about the subject herself or accurate transcription and dating of documents, but to the revision in editorial perspective.

My guiding principle in editing the letters was to credit Mary Shelley, based on the manuscript of the work, with the aesthetic and intellectual mastery that created Frankenstein (as opposed to those who still believed that Shelley had either written it or edited it so extensively as to make it his work). I also joined Frankenstein to Mary Shelley's five later novels and one novella. Traditionally, contemporary scholars have almost totally ignored these novels, with the exception of The Last Man. Valperga and Perkin Warbeck have been dismissed as failed romances; Falkner and Lodore, as failed romances gone Victorian. But if the Mary Shelley of the letters had been misread, why not the author of the novels as well? The challenge was to understand Mary Shelley on her own terms, within her own era. As editor, it became my responsibility to learn as much as {87} possible about Mary Shelley, without privileging any one aspect of her life over another. Within that context, the letters would be allowed to speak for themselves, whatever final depiction might emerge.

The feminist influence in this approach was to recognize fully Mary Shelley as the source of her own works, and provide annotations that demonstrated her interaction with the influences and interests in her life from which that artistic reality emanated. At the same time, I confronted the particular bias, feminist and nonfeminist, that so often distorts studies of female authors: the biographical hurdle. By this I mean that it is commonplace for biographers, essayists, and editors who study female authors to "explain" their subject through the circumstance of the author's husband, children, parents, and friends, while virtually ignoring the author's works in terms of intellectual and artistic achievement -- the primary reasons to study the author in the first place.

The Mary Shelley who emerged from the letters derived from the epistemological process potentially inherent in every scholarly edition of letters. In studying, transcribing, and annotating letter after letter, published and unpublished, to a large variety of correspondents including family and major and minor artists and political figures, I identified a range of topics as primary to Mary Shelley's interests. Alongside expected themes, including Shelley, children, parents, emerge political preoccupation and observation, dissatisfaction with the world as she encountered it, reformist ideology intended to restructure that world, both politically and socially, dissatisfaction and frustration with the status of women.

Perhaps most important, the letters evidence the complex responses and actions of an author whose literary ambition, confidence, and realization persevered even in the context of her own self-doubts (what author does not have them?) and as conscious hostage, for the sake of her surviving child,39 in a Victorian society that undermined female ambition and confidence and left her a self-described "exile in her own country" (Journals, vol. 2, 30 August 1843).

My editorial objectives and rationale are contained in the introduction of the first volume of the Letters, and amplified in the later two volumes. In short they state that Mary Shelley's letters are significant because her literary achievements and her history have rightly earned her an important, though often unacknowledged, place in nineteenth-century English studies; because her "explicit and implicit self-revelations as a woman" (1:xx) reflected in the letters introduce us to a significant consciousness of self as well as history and politics, in the process delineating both {88} the traditions of the era and her own defiance of those conventions; because her words, contextualized in sociopolitical as well as biographical annotations, provide fundamental insights into distinguishing the author within the situation both of her time and ours. It is essential to this approach that we respect the author sufficiently to begin with her own words, ideas, philosophy, and experience as she expressed them, prior to drawing conclusions about them.

Some critics have contended that the pedestrian side of the letters -- those that deal with domestic and household matters -- reduce their importance. Further, in comparison to the letters of Keats, Byron, Shelley, Mary Shelley's are devalued as lacking in beauty or intention to amuse and instruct. But this is to structure one purpose for reading and valuing letters. I would maintain that all the aspects of the letters are illuminating, for they demonstrate not only the posed or poised literary voice, but the author's practice of life. Complex and varied values infuse her letters: love, change, ethics, aesthetics, reformist politics, and travel, which are consciously revealed in her fiction as well. In the open intermingling of an impressive breadth of concerns and topics we hear the voice of a remarkable woman who left a significant heritage for female and male authors that offers important insight into this author, her works, and her era.

In 1987, a year before the third volume of the Letters was published, another major resource for Mary Shelley studies appeared: The Journals of Mary Shelley: 1814-1844, edited by Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert. For the first time, scholars had available a highly accurate and complete edition of the Journals that reflect Mary Shelley's life from her elopement with Shelley to seven years before her death. The importance of the Journals cannot be overstated for Mary Shelley studies, and the editors are to be praised for their transcriptions and for many of the historical and biographical footnotes they append. However, although the editors assert the Journals show a more self-realized Mary Shelley than do nineteenth-century depictions, their fundamental perception of Mary Shelley remains grounded in a curious amalgam of Marshall's purified mother/wife/author and Poovey's angelic victim, which are actually not very far apart. As a result, many of the annotations to the Journals are based on erroneous assumptions and are factually incorrect.40

Although all editing in the first instance entails "interpretation" and its complexities, obviously the acceptance of multiple views does not {89} necessarily endorse every view or conclusion as equally valid or correct. On the contrary, it is our responsibility, as critics and investigators of the past, as teachers of the present, to dedicate the time and effort required to create a portrait of an author that is as close as possible a reflection of the author herself.

Despite the many critical reviews of the Letters that acknowledge the "new" Mary Shelley of the edition, how is it that the vast majority of critics now entering Mary Shelley studies, even when they allude to and annotate from the letters, depict a narrow Mary Shelley, one confined to the single ideology of author as victim? One answer may be that the letters are relatively newly published, and eventually will find more comprehensive influence. A second answer, however, may reside in the current critical and editorial theory that fails to recognize editors of letters and other documents as influencing interpretation, an outgrowth of the thesis that documentary editors do not alter the text itself.

But in fact every editor is also a critic. Every decision made -- from the most technical page layouts to contextual annotations -- represents a choice and therefore a particular perspective; any document that is not a photofacsimile represents editorial alteration. When Tanselle states that editions of letters are "outside the editorial debate" in that "they do not alter documentary texts" (p. 109), he ignores the powerful role of both technical and annotative decisions. Tanselle's own assertion that "any text that a textual critic produces is itself the product of literary criticism,"41 is applicable to letters as well. Further, as the editions of Mary Shelley's letters demonstrate, editorial commentary and annotations do modify, for better or worse, biographical and literary conceptions of an author. In discarding artificial dichotomies between documentary and critical editors, we would open to larger consideration the influence and the authority of editors, and almost certainly attract more practitioners to this critical act of evolving the literary canon as we know it today.

The preponderant Anglo-American view of Mary Shelley as victim that so largely obviates the words and actions of the author herself can in part be traced to that separation of critic and editor and its resultant failure in the academy to teach our graduate and undergraduate students to edit or, as important, to fully grasp how the act -- and actor -- of editing is a major determinant in what and how we read.

An editor who "corrects" the idiosyncrasies of an author, who omits to annotate the allusions to topics not traditionally regarded as "female," offers a far different edition than one in which idiosyncrasies are retained {90} because they reflect not only the accidents but the values of an author. Surely it is reasonable to assume that a person who could, as Mary Shelley did, learn Italian, French, Greek, and some Latin; who read stores of fiction and nonfiction; and who integrated into her own works the philosophy and history of the past and her contemporaries could be meticulous about spelling or use conventional punctuation in her letters if she chose to -- and did so in her manuscripts and business letters. What does it suggest when she wrote otherwise?

Editions that recognize authorial intention as well as context present a different author than ones that denigrate women either as genetically inferior or as victim. A substantial constraint on the replacement of one reductive theory by another exists in the editorial resituating of the actual distinctions in the works of the women authors who precede us. Rather than narrow our interpretation of Frankenstein or, as is almost always the case, omit Mary Shelley's other novels from larger considerations because they do not fit into a predetermined paradigm, we would find in her very dissonances with the established patterns an important new understanding of both author and era. Indeed, a major reason that Mary Shelley has been omitted in later considerations of British literature is in part almost certainly because politics was not regarded as an appropriate topic for women in the Victorian era. But Mary Shelley cannot be properly read or understood without recognizing the pivotal role that politics play in all her novels.

Just as there are many aspects to modern feminism, there exist a variety of feminist perspectives in Mary Shelley's own time. Modern contemporary feminist theory should illuminate Mary Shelley's own agenda, as Romanticist and feminist. In both, she was in a small minority who were counter to the age in which they lived, a dissidence rooted in the intellectual circle to which she was born and grew to adulthood that empowered dissent and creativity in female and male.

In discussing the editing of Mary Shelley, I have focused on feminist criticism and its relationship to developing a theory of feminist editing. Such a distinction is useful for purposes of inquiry, but is not meant to suggest that there should be a separate category of feminist editorial theory. To isolate the editing of works of and by females from the larger context of editorial theory and canon interrogation that would include male authors and a spectrum of diverse, often disparate, perspectives or agenda that influence the work of editors would defeat the very purposes that inspired "Classical" feminism itself.

{91} Pioneers like Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley were in their day given the backhanded compliment that "they thought and wrote like men."42 To contend that women write like women is equally condescending. Classical feminism would argue, rather, that women are intellectually and aesthetically equal, but not the same as, men. An initial premise of intellectual and aesthetic ascription leads to consideration of women's works in terms of the authors and the works themselves. If we do not doubt the precocious Mozart, we equally need not doubt the precocious Mary Shelley.

In editing the letters of Disraeli, John Matthews cogently asserts that both "important" and "trivial" letters must be included so that readers will be "aware for the first time of the complexity of a personality in which the sum is greater than and different from the parts." 43 argument can be well made for all editions of letters, by females and males. In fact, much of the discussion of feminist editorial theory is applicable to male authors. Editorial theory in the service of literature and the canon would enfranchise a spectrum of perspectives through which to recognize an author's writings. But in light of the relative neglect of editorial theory within the feminist agenda, there exists a specific need to direct attention towards editing female authors within both feminist and nonfeminist literary criticism that would call attention to the need to reposition both literary theories and the canon that shapes it.

Can the prevalent mode of feminist criticism go beyond narrow agendas to see women's diversity rather than insist that women have only one and the same life experience? There are biological realities, but human intelligence allows us to recognize similarities and distinctions. Certainly the world of literary studies is committed to understanding and interpreting such distinctions. We do not traditionally "presume" men's writings. To "presume" a single women's writing leads to conclusions that are often both restrictive and invalid. To recognize the distinctiveness of writers as well as their era allows recognition of their individual struggle, circumstances, and art.

Evidence, both critical and editorial, demonstrates that feminists can reveal the complex intellect in women's art. Accomplishments and obstacles, whatever their origins, have been recognized and incorporated into texts and editorial annotations. But such production requires critics, editorial and otherwise, to respect two contexts: the subject's as well as their own. Particularly in this era of restoring women to their rightful places in literary history, subtle and not so subtle influences on feminists' {92} own lives contend. We all recognize it is impossible to free oneself from such influences; indeed, there are reasonable arguments to suggest critics gain from just such influences. But, as much through self-reflexivity as though study of one's subject, the critic should seek to the extent possible to allow the subject to command the text.

In the earlier phases of retrieving female texts from undocumented obscurity, we hypothesized that certain ages had no or few female texts, leading in part to an agenda of historical female submission. In those same phases, many feminists organized around the concept of segregation from males in order to emphasize the need for evaluating both past and present. To a great degree, the segregationist premises of the women's movement can be viewed as an appropriate political response to the societal structure of the Victorian world that conditioned those premises. But just as we recognize that Mary Shelley and other women were not the products of that particular conditioning, we must recognize the possibility that women writing in other eras worked within different premises. It is our responsibility to understand the complex history of those diverse premises and experiences. Rejecting a segregationist or a single-track premise allows for the actuality of what we have witnessed in recent years: the retrieval of female texts with variant female voices from different eras and perspectives. The Brown University Women Writers Project44 and a number of other individual and collective projects45 demonstrate that there has been a tradition of female writing all along. But it is a tradition of diversity, brought to light through careful, patient research. Much remains to be done.

And much of that work must take place on the difficult path in which editing and criticism converge. I say "difficult" because so many critics do not evince sufficient regard to primary material to master that material before embarking on analyses of both text and author; difficult because there is currently a prevalent disregard for the significance of editorial work that requires close textual analysis rather than the expounding of predetermined declarations about an author that may have little to do with the author herself. Deduction should not be given priority over biographical induction; hermeneutics over empirical analysis.

My own editorial agenda for the next chapter of feminist influence is rather expansive, but can be summed up in four suggestions:

  1. Teach editing and editorial theories in classes.
  2. Emphasize the manuscript/editorial aspects of texts.
  3. {93} Encourage the time, work, and skills editing demands and respect it in critical as well as practical terms, i.e., by such measures as faculty hiring and tenure.
  4. Do not privilege our era over the era in which a writer wrote; contextualize the figure within her (or his) own era.
In terms of Mary Shelley, I look forward to creative editors who will, based on extensive consideration of the author and her era, and the development of appropriate editorial principles, produce scholarly editions of her oeuvre. These, together with biographical resources, will in turn yield definitive critical studies and biographies that open yet another phase in Mary Shelley studies. With such a foundation, to paraphrase Mary Shelley's own Sanchean phrase, that beginning will certainly and constructively "be linked to something that went before" in the evolution of Western civilization's literary canon.


1. King Lear, 3.4.105.

2. Cynthia Ozick, "Justice to Feminism," Art & Ardor (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), p. 288.

3. Ozick, "Justice," p. 266.

4. Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller, Conflicts in Feminism (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 6.

5. Hirsch and Keller, Conflicts, p. 4.

6. Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (London: Methuen, 1985), p. xiv.

7. Patricia Meyer Spacks, The Female Imagination (New York: Avon Books, 975).

8. Ellen Moers, Literary Women The Great Writers (New York: Anchor Books, 1977).

9. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennett, 3 vols. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 1:42ff.

10. Iona and Peter Opie, A Nursery Companion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980-), pp. 6, 118-22, 127-28.

11. See, for example, Julia Prewitt Brown, "Review Essay; The Feminist Depreciation of Austen: A Polemical Reading," Novel (Spring l990): 303-13.

12. Betty T. Bennett, review of The Madwoman in the Attic, by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Keats-Shelley Journal.

13. See n. 10.

14. Until 1987, the only readily available edition of the Journal was the 1947 edition edited by Frederick L. Jones (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press), taken from an excised version printed privately by Jane, Lady Shelley. Even in its partly limited form, it provides a wealth of information. A microfilm of the complete, original Journal has been in the archives of Duke University since 1952 and also at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The Jones edition was superseded by complete Journals of Mary Shelley 1814-1844, ed. Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987).

15. Frederick L. Jones, The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 2 vols. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944). Subsequent references are incorporated in the text.

16. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, eds., The Norton Anthology of Literature By Women (New York: Norton, 1985), pp. 237-52.

17. See Brown, "The Feminist Depreciation of Austen,' for a discussion of the implication of Austen's representation in The Madwoman "solely by a fragment from the Juvenilia" (p. 312).

18. Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Victorian Writer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). Subsequent references are incorporated in the text.

19. Letter from Claire Clairmont to Jane Williams, Pisa, 1 February 1833, Abinger Collection, Bodleian Library.

20. Betty T. Bennett, Mary Diana Dods, A Gentleman and a Scholar (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1991).

21. Mary Shelley, Perkin Warbeck, 3 vols. (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830).

22. Mary Jacobus, "Is There a Woman in This Text?" New Literary History 14 (1982): 117-41.

23. Godwin's Caleb Williams, certainly a model for Frankenstein, argued as forcefully against the contemporary sociopolitical structures.

24. Mary Shelley, Valperga, 3 vols. (London: G. and W. B. Whittaker, 1823).

25. Mary Jacobus, Romanticism, Writing and Sexual Difference (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989).

26. Joan W. Scott: "Deconstructing Equality-Versus-Difference: Or, the Uses of Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism,' in Conflicts in Feminism, ed. Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller (New York: Routledge, 1990), pp. 134-48.

27. G. Thomas Tanselle, A Rationale of Textual Criticism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989).

28. Jerome J. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), p. 8.

29. Jerome J. McGann, "The Monks and the Giants," in Textual Criticism and {95} Literary Interpretation, ed. Jerome J. McGann, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 189.

30. See, for example, Brenda R. Silver, Virginia Woolf's Reading Notebooks (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), and Brenda R. Silver, "Textual Criticism as Feminist Practice: Or, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Part II," in Representing Modernist Texts: Editing as Interpretation, ed. George Bornstein (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991).

31. Text 4 (1988): 351-59.

32. Reiman has in the course of his career as editor and critic directed such significant Romantic manuscript publications as Romantics, The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts, and The Harvard Keats Manuscripts.

33. Text 5 (1989): 91-103.

34. See, for example, Nancy K. Miller, ed., The Poetics of Gender (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Judith Spector, ed., Gender Studies: New Directions in Feminist Criticism (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1986); Janet Todd, ed., Gender and Literary Voice (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1980); Elizabeth Abel, ed., Writing and Sexual Difference (University of Chicago Press, 1982); Josephine Donovan, Feminist Literary Criticism (University Press of Kentucky, 1975); Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983); Elaine Showalter, ed., The New Feminist Criticism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985); Elizabeth A. Flynn and Patrocinio P. Schweickhart, eds., Gender an d Reading: Essays on Readers, Texts, and Contexts (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

35. The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, ed. Florence A. Marshall, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1889), l:v. Subsequent references are incorporated in the text.

36. Edward John Trelawny, Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, 2 vols. (London: Basil Montague Pickering, 1878).

37. Vol. 1, "A Part of the Elect," 1980; vol. 2, "Treading in Unknown Paths," 1983: vol. 3, "What Years I Have Spent," 1988.

38. See, for example, Richard Holmes, "Poetic Injustice,' New York Times,18 May 1980. Holmes writes: "The injustice of her fate -- the poetic injustice, as it were -- is even more disturbing in Mary Shelley's case, for she was clearly a wonderfully gifted (and indeed tormented) writer on her own terms, and an altogether remarkable and complex personality." "What is new so far? Apart from the vivid central perspective it brings to Mary Shelley's predicament as one writer married to another, this first volume shows much more clearly -- and sympathetically -- the breadth and independence of her character. I had neverfully appreciated the degree of her interest in the political freedom movements of the day . . . or her gossipy but highly professional inside knowledge of literary and theatrical life in London."

39. Sir Timothy Shelley, Shelley's father, agreed to give Mary Shelley an allowance to support Percy Florence Shelley, repayable against her eventual inheritance as Shelley's heir, only if she resided in England (see Letters, 1:328).

40. I have detailed some of these assumptions and errors in my review of the Journals in The Keats-Shelley Journal 37 (1988): 197-200.

41. G. Thomas Tanselle, A Rationale of Textual Criticism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), p. 35. For a further discussion of emendation of documentary texts, see G. Thomas Tanselle, Textual Criticism Since Greg: A Chronicle l950-1985 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1987), p. 109ff.

42. As examples, see Mary Wollstonecraft, A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, ed. Richard Holmes (Middlesex, England, 1987), p. 68; the review of Mary Shelley's Rambles in Germany and Italy, in 1840, 1842, and 1843 (London: Edward Moxon, 1844), in the New Monthly Magazine, October 1844, 284-86.

43. John Matthews: "The Hunt for the Disraeli Letters," Editing Correspondence (New York: Garland, 1979), pp. 83-84.

44. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, this project has among its goals the establishment of "a full-text electronic database of PreVictorian women writers in the English language."

45. See, for example, Margaret J. M. Ezell, "The Myth of Judith Shakespeare: Creating the Canon of Women's Literature,' New Literary History, 21 (1990): 579-92, for a compendium of a number of retrieved Renaissance and seventeenth- century texts.