Frankenstein, Werther and the Monster of Love

Fred Botting

From News from Nowhere: Theory and Politics of Romanticism, ed. Tony Pinkney, Keith Hanley, and Fred Botting (Keele: Keele Univ. Press, 1995), 157-87

Isolate being is a deception . . . and the couple becoming stable at last, is a negation of love. But what goes from one lover to the other is a movement that puts an end to isolation or at least makes it waver. Isolate being is risked, opens to what's beyond itself, to what's beyond the couple even -- monstrous excess.1
A strange love quivers between Victor Frankenstein and the unnamed monster, producing a movement that absorbs subject and object in a terrifyingly reversible relation where ideal unity cedes to nothingness. For them, love leaps beyond limits but also encounters absolute difference: the excesses of sublime passion loose the monstrous figures. Opening up questions of the self, its being, life, objects and language, love is inextricably entangled in the formation and dissolution of the western subject as it was shaped in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the spark of love that flickers between Frankenstein and The Sorrows of Young Werther the Romantic subject is taken to the limits of fullness and loss, transgressing all other bounds: love is both vital and fatal, presenting 'the zenith of subjectivity' and 'extreme of solitude'.2 In the experience of these impossible limits, however, love discloses a division at the heart of subjectivity, a division wherein negativity rends unity with the movements of desire, leaving plenitude at the level of a narcissistic fantasy that is constituted and displaced by structures of language.

The split that love tries to cover discloses, not the ideal image glimpsed by flights of amorous fantasy, but the monstrosity of subjectivity itself. Love, then, is a textual affair, bound up with structures of signification. In and between Frankenstein and Werther it is the effects of romance that both shape and displace the subject of love who is associated with the imagination, creativity and unity of Romanticism. Many readings of Mary Shelley's novel have interpreted it as a critique of male Romanticism that displays the egoism underlying Romantic ideals.3 The homosocial identifications between male figures, the drive for unity manifested in their projects and the embedded 'chinese box' structure of the text suggest the mirror as the governing metaphor.4 {158} Reflecting only male desires and their obliteration of all differences, especially sexual difference, the novel stresses the lethal effects of egoism and narcissism as they are defined by a patriarchal symbolic economy. While this essay shares assumptions about Frankenstein's critical examination of Romantic subjectivity, it analyses the way the novel not only critiques the effects of masculine desire but examines the structural, cultural and textual issues at stake in both their production and their disclosure of monstrous excess.

Love and the One

Narcissism, however, cannot provide the grounds for an essay critique of masculinity, though it remains crucial to the formation of subjectivity. In Tales of Love, Julia Kristeva discusses the homological power of Eros, the ideal of Self which unifies universal and particular (p. 62). For Kristeva, the unity of the One found in Plotinus' comments on love and God establishes the condition for interiority: 'that autou eros that I see as the sublime hypostasis of narcissistic love was to constitute the decisive step in the assumption of inner space, the introspective space of the western psyche' (p. 111). In a secular world, the human subject falls in love with its Self, the external form constituting the ideal and perfect being, internalised as One's Self. While, for Kristeva, the subject can be captivated by metaphors as much as its own ideal image, thus leaving the binary specular frame of narcissism open to movement, the account of narcissism displays a theological structure in its ideals of unity and oneness. Such an idealised version of love implicates the Romantic philosophical tradition in the literary one.

Hegel's phenomenological system places love in a central position. In 'The Spirit of Christianity', Hegel states: 'To love God is to feel one's self in the "all" of life, with no restrictions, in the infinite. In this feeling of harmony there is no universality, since in harmony the particular is not in discord but in concord, or otherwise there would be no harmony.' Love breaks the 'might of objectivity' since it has no limits.5

Love unites subject and object.6 It overcomes separation, opposition and division, partaking of the 'whole of life': 'In love the separate does still remain, but as something united and no longer as something separate; life [in the subject] sense life [in the object].'7 Love reconciles, implicitly at least, the dialectical divisions of consciousness, articulating the 'individual divine Man' with the 'universal divine Man', the community.8

Feeling, the heart, provides the possibility of reconciling the subject to principles of rationality as well as community. The distinction, moreover, is framed in familial terms: the father is the figure to whom consciousness of knowing and doing belong, while the mother is linked {159} to feeling and love. In the Philosophy of Right, the family again provides the image of the relationship between consciousness and love:

The family, as the immediate substantiality of mind, is specifically characterised by love, which is mind's feeling of its own unity. Hence in a family, one's frame of mind is to have self-consciousness of one's individuality within this unity as the absolute essence of oneself, with the result that one is not in it as an independent person but as a member.9
Individuality has its autonomy sacrificed to the greater and essential unity of being while still sustaining its self-consciousness. Love, as 'mind's feeling of its own unity', extends, transcendentally, to encompass the totality of being; it is at once the condition and the beyond of human unity.

The image of unity proposed by Hegel's concept of love, however, depends on an experience of separation, as does the subject in the attainment of self-consciousness. Aware of this separation, the subject 'posits this [presently unachievable] unification in a future state'. Love's unity is deferred; the subject, separated from the object, encounters the distance from the ideal object of unity: 'Religion is one with love. The beloved is not opposed to us, he is one with our essential being; we see only ourselves in him -- and yet also he is still not we -- miracle that we cannot grasp.' ('Two Fragments', pp. 262-3) Love's ideal, its divine self-image, remains distanced, ungraspable. The separation from ideal unity, however, becomes a condition for human development. Hegel uses the family to illustrate the relationship between the intuition of love, one's separation from it and the recovery of unity. Lovers, united in the manifold of life and love, lose consciousness of their difference from each other in the abolition of their separate selves. A child is born, testament to the union of selves and bodies, 'a seed of immortality, of the eternally self-developing and self-generating [race], has come into existence. What has been united [in the child] is not divided again; [in love and through] God has acted and created.' ('Love', p. 307)

However, while the child signifies the lover's union with each other in the wider sphere of manifold being, the child's own unity is rather limited:

This unity [the child], however, is only a point, [an undifferentiated unity,] a seed; the lovers cannot contribute to it as to give it a manifold in itself at the start. Their union is free from all inner division; in it there is no working on an opposite. Everything which gives the newly begotten child a manifold life and a specific existence, it must draw into itself, set over against itself, and unify with itself. The seed breaks free from its original unity, turns ever more and more to {160} opposition, and begins to develop. Each stage of its development is a separation, and its aim in each is to regain for itself the full riches of life [enjoyed by the parents]. Thus the process is: unity, separated opposites, reunion. After their union the lovers separate again, but in the child their union has become unseparated. ('Love', pp. 307-8)
The child functions in two different registers at once: for the parents it is a symbol of lasting union, the realisation of their greater existence in love; for itself it exists in separation, aiming to regain a lost unity that, the last sentence implies, may only be illusory. Love provides the subject with an ideal of its own unity as nostalgia and wish, a unity lost in the present and consigned to both an irrecuperable past and a distant future.

The fundamental contradiction of love appears in the renewed distancing of subject and object. Love, the ultimate and ideal unity of human consciousness, is wanting. Indeed, it exists as want:

Love's intuition seems to fulfil the demand for completeness; but there is a contradiction. Intuition, representative thinking, is something restrictive, something receptive only of something restricted; but here the object intuited [God] would be something infinite. The infinite cannot be carried in this vessel. ('Christianity', p. 253)
Love exceeds consciousness and mind is left incomplete, an incompleteness which determines the subject's want of unity, its want of an ideal and the totality of being.

Both Frankenstein and Werther are determined by the incomplete dialectic of love, subjected to the want of unity it prescribes. They both speak the exorbitant language of the Romantic imagination and indulge in passions whose ultimate object is the idealised form of self. Victor's creative enterprise, the solitude with which it is pursued and the object to which it is addressed, links him to Romantic models. Werther, similarly, speaks of the imagination and the possibility of artistic expression 'if I had some clay or wax to model'.10 Love constitutes Werther as the consummate artist, for though unable to work he feels he has 'never been more of a painter than I am now'. As a Romantic artist, Werther identifies nature as the locus of total unity. Alone in the folds of nature, Werther feels the unifying presence of being; it elevates him, enabling his participation in the 'breath of the All-loving One who sustains us as we float in illimitable bliss' (p. 3). This unity, as with Hegelian conceptions, assumes the fusion of internal and external worlds through the animating breath of life: it is the spiritus that unites human and divine being in the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge.11

{161} Such unity is found, also, in love as it presents the subject with the possibility of transcendence. Love elevates the subject himself: 'it is after all, certain that nothing in the world renders a man indispensable save love' (p. 48). In love, Werther recovers the fullness of being which his first letter describes as having been lost. The letter states that he has left the love of his friend behind in order to escape the apparently scandalous results of his rejection of another woman who has 'entertained' him. Early in his epistolary account he recalls the loss of a woman friend whose presence elevated his own sense of being, allowing him to become 'everything I could be' (p. 6). Nature and women are the locus of love, linking the totality of being to the presence of maternal affection. Not only are women in Werther's past substitutes for lost maternal affection: Lotte is herself identified with the wonderful mother whose story has both Albert and Werther on the brink of losing consciousness.

Maternal figures predominate in Frankenstein's account of his idealised upbringing. Frankenstein is born into a family of love, the offspring of loving parents. Describing the sequence of events, that for him, culminated in his creation, Victor presents an environment that corresponds to the union of love Hegel associates with the family. His parents are united in 'bonds of devoted affection' while their child is 'their plaything and idol', a heaven-sent symbol of their unity.12 The centre of their dutiful attentions, the 'being to which they had given life', Victor is their 'only care'. Later, with the addition of an orphan girl to the family, the harmonious tones of Victor continue. She is another version of him: 'the passionate and reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and delight' (p. 35). Elizabeth is an extension of Victor, a mark of his wish for completion, sign of his mother's love, a gift, a 'pretty present' (p. 34). She is, however, also a dangerous supplement, a sign of his lack in that she fulfils his mother's wish to have a daughter (p. 34). Not the object of absolute love, Victor is incomplete because he is not a girl.

Victor, the 'seed' and symbol of his parents' love, is left wanting the unity that it leaves in the past and promises in the future. His creative project, furthermore, stays within the bounds prescribed by the familial metaphor. Frankenstein pursues feminine nature in order expropriate the knowledge, both carnal and metaphysical, that will enable him to understand its hidden laws and possess the secret of life. He describes his victory over nature as the achievement of the 'summit of his desires'. In this 'most gratifying consummation' he reaches the pinnacle of subjectivity and the end of his 'painful labour' (p. 52). His penetration, consummation and labour signal the attainment of totality, success in reproduction, conception and creation. His identity is ideal, his union complete: beyond gender distinction, having absorbed the roles of lover, father, mother and child, no differences block the overwhelming fusion {162} of the transcendent moment, no opposition or separation impedes the rush to continuous being. Like the Hegelian love-child or the Wordsworthian child, he has superseded his parents and fathered himself.

The plenitude that swells within Frankenstein as he enjoys this moment of idealised erotic selfunion lead to boundless speculations of a metaphysical nature, speculations whose object is the divine form of the self (p. 54):

No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as both its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father should claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.
The aspirations to absolute paternal power are uttered with a passion that is both erotic and catastrophic. Wanting no less than the summit of being, the human realisation of divinity wherein the control of self and others is absolute, he transcends all limits. Being divine and human, creator and source, origin and end, cause and object of total love, he imagines the eroticised ideal of self. The images of natural energy, the hurricane and the flood, signal the catastrophe of amorous passion, the 'enthusiasm' that shatters all bounds in the first flush of love.


Love, however, is predicated upon loss: the separation from parental figures of unity for Hegel, the risk of isolate being for Bataille, and, for Frankenstein and Werther, the loss of self-presence associated with maternal and natural being. The fullness Frankenstein projects produces not the lasting union of self-copulation: the realisation of his creative power instead reopens the divisions that he imagined he had transcended, producing a reaffirmation of oppositions and differences and a repetition of his separation from his ideal. The creation of life does not deliver the fantasy of homogeneous and total existence, but presents an uncontrollable flood of heterogeneity. As the monster stirs with life the creator is horrified by its physical incongruity, his failure perceived in distinctly aesthetic terms: the creature's ugliness negates the visions that inspired its creation. This embodiment of life in full repulses the creator. The monster presents the inverted image of Frankenstein's narcissistic project; its animation overturning the creative ideals in a process of complete and monstrous reversal: beauty cedes to ugliness, hope to disappointment, success to failure, attraction to repulsion. As {163} the passage continues further reversals dismantle the visionary world: fleeing the creation, Frankenstein sleeps to dream a nightmare in which his fiance turns into the wormridden corpse of his mother: death, decay, and sexual difference turn eroticism into continual catastrophe, fragmenting being, separating subject from object rather than enabling their unification. Frankenstein notes how his world has turned upside down. The inversion of poles from life to death, union to separation reopens the gap and arouses the subject's sense of absolute loss. Mimicking the convulsions that brought the creature to life, Frankenstein's throes of despair constitute an unavowed recognition of his own monstrosity.

Werther, too, is possessed by a monstrous figure, undergoing the dramatic reversals characteristic of the Romantic subject of love. Bereft of the tiny acknowledgments a lover depends upon, Werther's bright vision of the world is replaced by a bleak prospect. Bliss and fullness once produced in sympathy with nature now cause 'unbearable torment', the infinity of being remains a memory that exacerbates his sense of total separation: 'it is as though a curtain has been drawn from before my soul, and the scene of eternal life is being transformed before my eyes into the abyss of the of the ever open grave' (p. 52). Life turns to death, being to nothingness, as nature becomes a consuming destructive force rendering all beings transient and mortal entities. The figure of the monster dominates this vision: 'I see nothing but a monster, eternally devouring . . .' (p. 52). Unity dissolves, self is lost: 'I cannot, I cannot regain command of myself. Wherever I go I encounter an apparition which totally deranges me' (p. 90). The appearance of the monster, for both Werther and Frankenstein, signals the decomposition of their narcissistic fantasy.

In Frankenstein, the appearance of the monster constitutes the turning point, the moment of complete reversal which discloses the negativity inherent in Romantic idealism. Life, presence and unity confront death, absence and difference, situating the subject in a world, not of love, benevolence and completeness, but of desire, loss and insufficiency. Werther is utterly without a place, his love of self having taken him beyond all symbolic, social relations, beyond reason and prohibition as is evident from his discussion with Albert (p. 61). Frankenstein's love has also transgressed all conventions, boundaries and laws to leave him isolated and apart. The monster magnifies this condition: more solitary, more separate, with no social bounds or familial bonds, the creature has no recognised place except as outcast. Significantly, it is the monster who severs all Frankenstein's ties with the human community: killing his bride and causing the death of his relations, the creature magnifies the egotism rather than the grandeur of the creator's project. The separation, moreover, emphasises the desire and violence at the heart of the idealist project.

This dialectic emerges as the basis of Frankenstein's project and his relationship with the monster. Taking the form of a struggle with feminised nature, whose 'citadel' he imagines he can conquer, the object of desire, the secret of life, is shaped by the Other, the goal of the world's wisest men (p. 52). His desire for mastery means that he risks his physical life, making himself seriously ill during his experiment. It also depends on the recognition of the 'new species' he creates: the recognition of these 'slaves', however, is insufficient to sustain his sense of mastery. It is only at the end, too late for Frankenstein, that he encounters an equal: Walton's recognition provides the image of his own desire. The master's position, as Kojève observes, is redundant. The sense of mastery, moreover, crumbles: Frankenstein cannot recognise his creation, {165} and nor does the creation recognise the master. In the Alps, the strength, agility and eloquence of the monster subjects the creator to his demand, not for Victor's recognition, but for the recognition of another, a female mate. Initially Frankenstein acquiesces to the demand. With the half-finished female monster before him and the eyes of the creature upon him, he rebels, destroying the new creation. At this point, the angry monster makes explicit the reversal that has occurred in their relationship, calling the creator a slave (p. 167).

Given Frankenstein's act of resistance, this is a belated cry of mastery. It leaves the pair within the master-slave dialectic, an incomplete dialectic which they play out in the remainder of the novel in a mutual, exclusive and reversible pursuit of the other. In the process Frankenstein is severed from all ties but those with the monster. It is, at last, an exclusive, if unresolved relationship, a dialectic without sublation. In the precipitation of one towards the other, however, they are erotically bound together in the momentum of true love. Indeed, 'the one you fight is the one you admire the most'.14 As Frankenstein's double, the inverted form of the creator's ideal image, the monster constitutes the embodiment of his desire and, simultaneously, the resistance that activates it.

Love depends on the other. For Werther, it is Lotte's love that supports his recognition of himself as his own ideal: 'Loves me!', he declares, 'how the thought exalts me in my own eyes! How I -- I may tell you, perhaps, for you can sympathise with such an emotion -- How I worship myself since she loves me' (p. 36). Made possible by the other's recognition, the idealisation opens to the infinite union desired by the subject. Like Frankenstein, it is nature and the totality it represents that is the ultimate object of desire (p. 31):

Oh! friend, when the world grows dim before my eyes and earth and sky are absorbed into my soul like the form of a beloved, I am often consumed with longing and think, ah! would that I could express it, would that I could breathe on to paper that which lives so warm and full within me, so that it might become the mirror of my soul as my soul is the mirror of the eternal God! My friend -- but it is beyond my power, and I succumb to the splendour of what lies before me.
As the physical world recedes under the longing gaze of the Romantic subject a transcendental dimension unfolds as its horizon and object of voracious introjection. Beyond difference, divine in its plenitude, the oneness that is imagined also involves the loss of identity, a sacrifice to the Other and absorption in its sublime splendour. Consuming and consumed, the subject remains dislocated in the momentum of a strange and impossible fusion.

{166} It is a fusion that offers, not life in full, but absence and death. What Werther wants is not a specific object, but like Frankenstein, the infinity of being. 'Love', as Bataille argues, 'is a desire to possess an object as great as the totality of desire' (Guilty, p. 152). As the summit of a subject's desire, love activates the passionate momentum that exceeds dialectical resolution. Bataille takes the negativity at the core of the Hegelian system further than Kojève. What he terms 'unemployed negativity' does not reconcile opposition at a higher level but 'breaks closed systems' (Guilty, pp. 123-4). Extreme states of experience display the movements and effects of negativity. The joy, the ecstasy of love is the consummation of the self in a passion that takes it outside itself towards its object which is neither being nor nothingness:

This object, chaos of light and shadow, is catastrophe. I perceive it as object; my thought, however, shapes it according to its image, at the same time that it is its reflection. Perceiving it, my thought sinks into annihilation as into a fall wherein one emits a cry. Something immense, exorbitant, is liberated in all directions with a noise of catastrophe; this emerges from an unreal, infinite void, at the same time loses itself in it, with the shock of a blinding flash.15
The catastrophe, exploding consciousness, liberates the separate subject, not in a unifying fusion with a determinable object or ideal, but in its sense of absolute loss, its plunge into an overwhelming torrent of negativity. This is the condition which befalls Frankenstein after the creation of the monster, his enthusiasm of discovery inverted. Werther, too, sees 'eternal life' transformed 'into the abyss of the ever open grave' (p. 52). The abyss into which subjectivity dissolves is the 'yawning gap' that love opens between subject and object (Bataille, Inner, p. 59). The 'yawning gap' also opens a wound in the narcissistic ego, the 'principle of insufficiency', that mocks being with its incompleteness (Bataille, Inner, p. 81). Incompleteness puts all assumptions of unity into question. Unity is rendered 'unavowable' and lost; being is lacking; the subject left wanting.16


These poles of unity and dissolution chart the limits, the extremes of possibility for the subject, as it remains separated, dislocated by the momentum of its excessive passion. The mirror, reflecting the subject from where it is not, discloses an impossible ideal. The narcissism of amorous passions leave subjectivity between an other that it cannot efface and an Other which it cannot grasp. There is a last, negative {167} direction, however, for union, the fatal path of Narcissus, sacrificing himself to his image. At the fatal rendezvous of life and death, the love of self-mastery, control and possession is sacrificed to the Other on the condition that the subject will be free from its subjection to the forces of desire, loss and separation. The beyond that love promised, the transcendence of limited and alienated existence and an ecstatic entry into a world of being and selfpresence turns, in the force of the passion it looses, into absolute abandonment to the Other. The totality of being becomes the totality of dissolution. As Bataille notes, the attempt of the ego to exceed itself, to surpass its solitary and isolated state by uniting with another in the 'pure eroticism' of love's passions or in bodily sensuality produces an intensity that leads it towards death.17

In Passion and Society, Denis de Rougemont discusses the intimate connection between of love and death:

Romance only comes into existence where love is fatal, frowned upon and doomed by life itself. What stirs lyrical poets to their finest flights is neither the delight of the senses nor the fruitful contentment of the settled couple; not the satisfaction of love, but its passion.18
Articulating love and death in an explosive dynamic, passion uncouples, disconnects, the subject from all fixed relations of law, reason or society in a metaphorical flight to a higher state of being, the beyond and finality of all desire: 'Passion requires that the self shall become greater than all things, as solitary and as powerful as God. Without knowing it, passion also requires that beyond its apotheosis death shall indeed be the end of all things' (p. 260).

In his instant of self-destruction, Werther imagines the 'perpetual embrace' guaranteed by the divinity. But the violence of his death transgresses every limit of subjectivity and a refusal to serve any master. The 'non serviam' is, Bataille notes, the devil's motto, the resistance that determines the lethal condition of human life, the satanic sovereignty that refuses all forms of subjection.19 At last exceeding law and reason, Werther becomes sovereign and dies. His Satanic rebellion against all law, brings him close to the monster who, along with Werther, identifies Milton's Satan as an appropriate model. It is Frankenstein's monster, a more perfect form of Werther (more perfect because he is more hideous and rejected), who presents a more complete gesture of gloriously pathetic and heroically tragic self-sacrifice. The destructively vital passion that sustained his relationship with another being in a dialectic without resolution ends with the death of Frankenstein. The creature mourns the creator's demise, another's death moving him beyond the limits of his demand for love to disclose a desolate space of subjectivity. As Blanchot, discussing Bataille's notion of 'inner experience', observes, {168} this space disturbs the boundaries of selfhood: 'Death, the death of the other, like friendship or love, clears the space of intimacy or interiority which is never (for Georges Bataille) the space of a subject, but a gliding beyond limits' (Community, p. 16).

With the death of the creator, the monster accedes to the Other's desire destroying himself. Sacrificing himself to the Other, an act of relinquishing and giving, the monster performs the culminating moment of the creator's project, the consumption of being.20 In this attenuation of the human subject's sacred position, the monster's act affirms the effervescence at the moment of its evanescence (Bataille, Religion, pp. 52-3). The monster's solitude is complete, as his last words, addressed to his dead creator, acknowledge (p. 223):

'Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine; for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall dose them for ever.' 'But soon,' he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, 'I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds.
This act, the monster promises, will take place at the Pole, the literal and metaphorical object of Walton's and Frankenstein's desire. There in a cataclysmic reversal of the Romantic creator's project, the monster plans to fulfil the final joyous ecstasies of the human subject, becoming one with the Other. Death heals the wounds of subjectivity. In an overwhelming fusion and rending of opposites, fire and light amid ice and darkness, life and death entwine in a joyous embrace, a total consummation of self and Other, achieved at the moment the subject achieves ultimate mastery, self-possession and autonomy in an act of destruction. The ashes remain as the trace of an isolated being now at one with dissolved in, the greater being of Nature. 'The path of my departure was free' as, in his reflections on The Sorrows of Young Werther, the monster quotes this line from P. Shelley's 'Mutability'.

Achieving absolute freedom, the monster offers a glimpse of the sovereign desire of the subject. At the end of Frankenstein, the reader, suspended between the impossible poles charted by the novel, follows Walton's disillusioned gaze at the monster disappearing in darkness and distance. The monster's promise remains to illuminate his departure with an intensity that testifies to the persistence of Frankensteinian desire and the negativity that underlines its sovereign wish:

To remain a man in the light requires the courage of demented incomprehension; it means being set on fire, letting go with screams {169} of joy, waiting for death, acting in a realization of some presence you don't and can't know. It means becoming love and blind light yourself, and attaining the perfect incomprehension of the sun. (Bataille, Guilty, p. 20)
But the monster only promises to immolate himself. And how many promises are kept in Frankenstein?21 It is a death the novel leaves unrepresented.

For Werther, death completes love's selfish sacrifice. It both ruptures and completes the narcissistic fantasy of unity, attenuating the divine at the expense of life. However, Werther's passion, though endlessly stating the will to exceed all limits, repeatedly teeters on the brink of the sacrificial and apotheotic moment. In speaking of suicide, he continually retreats from the act. For him it has a different end (p. 116):

For the last time then, for the last time I open these eyes. They are alas! to see the sun no more; it is hidden by a dark and misty day. Mourn then, Nature! thy son, thy friend, thy lover nears his end.
Nature is enjoined to mourn an ideal figure, Werther himself, who, though imaginarily already eclipsed, is not yet physically lost. Werther indulges in quite a number of last moments and mournful speculations of the loss of his own ideal. In the anguish of repeated last moments the subject hangs on passionately, waiting for some word of reprieve from the Other. Unable to attain the ecstatic heights of being that are intimated in his relationships with Nature and Lotte, he pleads for their understanding, their recognition. Addressing Nature as a lover and demanding suitable rites of mourning, Werther shows that he cannot conceive of his demise by projecting himself, as powerful absence, into a future in which he will have no vital part. Indeed, as he goes on to say to Lotte, he has no conception of the meaning of 'the last' or to 'pass away' (pp. 116-17).

The inability to conceive of finitude displays the recalcitrance of narcissism. Werther hangs on to the dream of his ideal and infinite self. This belies his gestures of sacrifice and statements of utter dissolution 'Friend, I am lost! She can do with me what she will' (p. 88). Werther, however, does not submit to her will. Rejected, he keeps coming back. His returns, and especially his explanation of self-sacrifice, have little of the ring of true devotion about them. Instead, in the insinuations of responsibility (stating that it was she who provided the means of death), in describing the death of another lover (Lotte was not the first and only!) and in the visions of her suffering, Werther sets out to hurt her. The aggressive tone of his last letters construct a childish wish to punish her for her rejection of him. He taunts and threatens her with his own {170} death, his last weapon in his fight to win her recognition. It is also the last gesture of a subject glimpsing the impossibility of mastery: to have effects on others bears some precious, pathetic testimony to his continuing powers. The vain cry of 'She is mine! You are mine!' only repeats his lack of mastery (p. 118).

The repeated and vain gestures of mastery with which Goethe's novel draws to a close, situate Werther as a resolutely narcissistic being. His gestures, the projections and mournful recuperations of his idealised image, produce a game of mastery, of rejecting and returning the lost object of love in an effort to overcome the trauma of separation. For Freud, the child's 'fort/da' game attempts to overcome the 'distressing experience' caused by the disappearance of the love object of the narcissistic ideal ego.22 Werther, it seems, predicates his ideal on the wish to recuperate the lost figure of his own ego. As Lacan observes, the mother is central to Werther's narcissism: the object, Lotte cuddling a child provides 'an entirely satisfying' image for the anaclitic narcissism as it coincides with his own fundamental image.23 Throughout the novel, maternal figures are linked to the subject's ecstasies. Albert and Werther are brought to the brink of ecstasy by Lotte's relation of the story of a wonderful mother. In another letter Werther asks his friend not to send any books. Not wishing to add to the 'ferment' his heart is already in Werther is content with the 'lullabies' of Homer. The maternal songs that soothe a child to sleep offer a cure to the 'restless changeability of his sick heart' where other books enliven or excite, rousing the fluctuations of extreme desire. With Werther's last words the mother is firmly placed at the centre of the beloved image: after death he will be united with Lotte and her mother (p. 128).

The mother occupies a central place in Frankenstein's world. Idealised, her loss forms the site on which Frankenstein's desires take their particular form: to conquer death is to overcome her death and recuperate her, while to 'give birth' to life is both to fulfil her desire for a daughter and to occupy the place of the mother. Frankenstein's nightmare, however, presents the irrecuperable maternal loss: his mother, after his act of creation, remains dead. As the absolute condition and limit of life, death signals the impossibility of his narcissistic fantasy, anaclitically invested in the figures of Elizabeth and his mother. Immortality, unconditional love, life and being are replaced by absolute and irreparable loss. This limit describes the shift Freud observes in the significance of the double. For the ideal ego of primary narcissism the double provides intimations of immortality, but in secondary narcissism the double takes on the function of ego ideal as a 'harbinger of death'.24 At the turning point of Frankenstein's catastrophic creation, the double has altered its position from primary to secondary narcissism, from promise of divine immortality to monstrous finitude.

Passion of the Signifier

While love seems to define Romantic subjectivity as profoundly and inescapably narcissistic, its effects exceed the closure of the mirror. For Lacan, the subject of love is a narcissistic entity whose sense of unity remains imaginary and emerges in a master-slave dialectic with its own image. However, the narcissistic subject is doubled and introduces effects of signification that enable and exceed the very constitution of the subject. Love, as it highlights and displaces the possibility of being raises, for the subject, questions of its imaginary unity by providing an image which though reflecting like a mirror and thus profoundly narcissistic opens on to symbolic relations: 'It's one's own ego that one loves in love, one's own ego made real on the imaginary level' (Seminar I, p. 142). In the mirror, as in love, the subject glimpses and identifies with the total form of itself in an act of mastery that remains imaginary because it misrecognises the other, the image, as itself. The subject has not yet achieved mastery over the motor coordination of its body even though psychological mastery is, in the mirror moment, anticipated.25

The mastery of an ideal ego is assumed before the fragmented desire (and body) is regulated in the dimension of the symbolic. The mirror's specular relation is, for Lacan, a mirage whose illusory status is manifested in the look of love: 'when in love, I solicit a look, what is profoundly unsatisfying and always missing is that -- You never look at me from the place from which I see you'. The imaginary, like love, remains a deception:

As a specular mirage, love is essentially a deception. It is situated in the field established at the level of the pleasure reference, of that sole signifier necessary to introduce a perspective centred on the Ideal point, capital I, placed somewhere in the Other, from which the Other sees me, in the form I like to be seen.26
Love discloses the subject's dependence on the Other, the 'locus of signifying convention' (Ecrits, p. 173). An imaginary phenomenon, love and its narcissistic subject is relocated as a symbolic construction, an effect of linguistic and cultural practices, dependent on speaking subjects amorously addressing an Other from whom they want a reply, a sign of recognition.

Love, in the movement it enables between imaginary and symbolic, between primary and secondary narcissism, sustains a generally disruptive momentum:

Love is a phenomenon which takes place on the imaginary level, and which provokes a veritable subduction of the symbolic, a sort of annihilation, of peturbation of the function of the egoideal. Love reopens the door -- as Freud puts it, not mincing his words -- to perfection. (Seminar I, p. 142)
Such perfection glimpsed in the peturbation of the symbolic opens on to a 'beyond' of language. Words of love produce 'a rupture in the system of language'.29

For Lacan, the perturbation, the rupture and the beyond it discloses, associate love with the sacred, an imaginary beyond that remains paradoxically beyond the imaginary dimension:

The primary imaginary relation provides the fundamental framework for all possible eroticism. It is a condition to which the object of Eros as such must be submitted. The object relation must always submit {173} to the narcissistic framework and be inscribed in it. Certainly it transcends it, but in a manner which it is impossible to realise on the imaginary plane. That is what introduces for the subject the necessity of what I would call love. A creature needs some reference to the beyond of language, to a pact, to a commitment which constitutes him, strictly speaking, as an other, a reference included in the general or, to be more exact, universal system of interhuman symbols. No love can be functionally realisable in the human community, save by means of a specific pact, which, whatever the form it takes, always tends to become isolated off into a specific function, at one and the same time within language and outside of it. That is what we call the function of the sacred, which is beyond the imaginary relation. (Seminar I, p. 174)
At the limits of language, which as Other cannot be transcended, the subject of love finds transcendence. Erotic love, 'the universal presence of a power binding subjects together' and passionate love, 'a sort of psychological catastrophe', meet at this seam of imaginary, symbolic and beyond (Seminar I, p. 112). The sacred becomes the ultimate imaginary object that remains ungraspable, impossible, something that functions in the mode of anamorphosis: 'what we seek in the illusion is something in which the illusion as such in some way transcends itself, destroys itself, by demonstrating that it is only there as a signifier' (Ethics, p. 136). Love, through the sacred, discloses the field of the Thing 'onto which is projected something beyond, something at the point of origin of the signifying chain, the place in which doubt is cast on all that is the place of being' (Ethics, p. 214). This locus displays love as a textual thing, enmeshing the subject in a network that it imagines it can transcend. It also, however, severs love from its associations with being and human presence, signifying the emptiness of the subject of language.

Romance Metaphor

Discussing the structures of the courtly romance, Lacan elaborates on the 'inhuman character of the object of love', on how it supplants living beings with the movement of desire and signifiers: 'this love that led some people to acts close to madness was addressed at living beings, people with names, but who were not present in their fleshly and historical reality . . . they were there in any case in their being as reason, as signifier' (Ethics, pp. 215-16). The romance, like the literature that succeeded it, situates love in relation to a thing that cannot be symbolised, a thing which lies as the ungraspable remainder of the subject of language, {174} with which it desires reunification but which stays forever out of reach for the I who is subject to 'the passion of the signifier' (Ethics, p. 143). It is the thing as lost self, as the ambivalent double constantly posited by poetic creation which deploys a 'form of sublimation specific to art' that 'consists in positing an object I can only describe as terrifying, an inhuman partner' (Ethics, p. 150).

It is this thing, this double, that emerges in the writings on love by the poet Percy Shelley. Love presents an imaginary ideal. Describing the 'miniature' of 'our entire self' that inhabits our intellectual nature, the 'ideal prototype', the 'portrait our external being' and an 'assemblage of the minutest particles of which our nature is composed', Shelley's torrent of images is interrupted by an asterisk before further elaboration's describe the internalised and homomunculic image of love's dream as 'a mirror whose surface reflects only the forms of purity and brightness; a soul within our soul . . . .'30 The imaginary totality of love unites internal ideal with external form: love seeks the subject's own ideal object -- its self. Interrupting this description of the union of inside and out, of self and ideal in a state of complete being, however, the asterisk directs the reader to a footnoted expostulation: 'these words are ineffectual and metaphorical. Most words are so -- No help!' The imaginary encounters that ambivalent thing, metaphor, and thence the insufficiency of being at the limits of language, the words of love that rupture the system of words. Metaphorical substitutions become ineffectual, the Other is called for to deliver, recognise and stabilise love. This goes against the metaphorical momentum of the signifier, leaving Shelley stranded before the Other who will not rescue him with an answer to his cry.

The metaphors that were ineffectual in the representation of love for Shelley become, as the cry for help -- a cry, words, addressed to the Other -- suggested, its very essence. Love's language is, in the words of Kristeva, 'impossible, inadequate, immediately allusive when one would like it to be most straightforward; it is a flight of metaphors -- it is literature' (Tales, p. 1). In the wanderings of metaphor the subject's identity is risked, its limits disappear to put the very identity of the speaking subject in question:

Finally, to speak of love may be, perhaps, a simple condensation of speech that merely arouses, in the one spoken to, metaphorical capabilities -- a whole imaginary, uncontrollable, undecidable flood, of which the loved one alone unknowingly possesses the key . . . what does he understand me to be saying? What do I understand him to be saying? Everything? -- as one tends to believe in those moments of merging apotheoses, as total as they are unspeakable? Or nothing? as I think, as he may say when the first wound comes and unsettles our vulnerable hall of mirrors . . . Vertigo of identity, vertigo of words: love, for the individual, is that sudden revelation, that irremediable cataclysm, of which one speaks only after the fact. (Tales, p. 3)
With words love takes on its true force, opening the subject up to the effects of the Other. With words, also, the imaginary, narcissistic structure of love and subjectivity enters a different dimension of impossible being, raising the subject to a zenith which is its apotheosis in the Other.

Romance Reading

In The Sorrows of Werther, the protagonist comes to the fore as a subject of letters. The epistolary structure of the narrative serves to highlight {176} the displacements of amorous utterance even as they shape the intimations of inner space and enable the Romantic postures assumed by Werther. Love's text, integral to amorous experience as it is, nonetheless frustrates Werther's amorous insistence on the absolute, constituting and displacing his exorbitant longing for the beyond. Words exert their ambivalent, monstrous power to excite the subject to ecstasy and plunge him into despair. At the moment Werther believes he has won the love of Lotte he exclaims: 'Oh! may I, can I express the Paradise that lies in these words? -- that she loves me' (p. 36). The paradise of the Other's recognition does not, however, always fill hollow words.

The demand for love, presence and unity uttered in words, but to their beyond, signals a demand that remains too great for the Other to respond. In the face of the silence of the Other, Werther attempts to efface the hollow distance in a return to the plenitude of the imaginary. Words fail him when he tries to describe the perfection of Lotte. The failure of words to adequately match up to an idealised reality is already a conventional romantic trope for expressing the inexpressible, for broaching the sacred. Werther, however, takes this convention to its limit. As he confesses to his addressee, constructing the intimacy of the moment's poignancy, 'between ourselves, since I began this letter I have been three times on the verge of laying down my pen, saddling my horse and riding off . . .' (p. 13). Ellipsis in the letter suggests he has just done so. When the narrative resumes he says he has. Werther, retreating from the symbolic, frustrated with the inadequacy of writing, succumbs to the irresistible lure of the imaginary.

The lover's speech seems to deliver amorous presence in full. It seems to exceed the specular ideal. In the remarks that precede one of Werther's amatory expostulations the words both question and fill specular uncertainty: 'No, I am not deceiving myself! I can read in her black eyes a real interest in me and my destiny' (p. 36). Love's presence, love's specular communication, is not immediate, it appears, but depends on the subject's interpretation, on a wishful reading of the significance of love's look. It is a reading that both suspends and sustains erotic uncertainty with a frisson crucial to passion and desire, directing energies towards the place of the look, the Other. The novel, in contrast to Werther's insistence on speech and presence, attends to the writing and reading that enable love to appear. The ultimate moment of passion in Werther occurs as a direct effect of reading. On Werther's last visit to Lotte, after he has determined to die, the latter finds herself unable to carry out her injunction not to admit him. Compromised and confused by his presence, Lotte suggests that he reads. The reading from Ossian with its stormy scenes, passionate addresses and images of solitude, love and death has profound effects on the pair. The tales bring forth their own misery in a flood of recognition and tears. With a passion that sweeps away all bounds of decency and dissolves all self-possession, Werther clings to Lotte in a desperate embrace. Hands, cheeks, lips touch before Lotte regains her self-possession and pulls away, fleeing to the next room and locking the door. Departing without a single word of farewell from Lotte, Werther never sees her again.

In the context of the late eighteenth-century it is neither unimportant nor surprising that Ossian is the text that inspires the overflow of romantic passions. Ossian, a forged collection of Gaelic fragments, {178} 'translated' by James Macpherson and published in 1759, participated in the changing aesthetic sensibilities of the eighteenth-century, part of a broad literary and scholarly endeavour recovering or reconstructing old English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish poems and tales.33 The Romantic or Gothic revival grew and changed shape in the course of the eighteenth century. The terms 'romance' and 'gothic' associated the revival with styles of writing that countered the prevailing neo-classical taste for aesthetic productions in the Greek and Roman mode by a recourse to older national traditions. Linked to feudal culture and customs, and freedoms, passions and energies deemed barbarous by Augustans, the literature evoked lost worlds, magical beings and mysteries, and, using wild natural landscapes and images, produced the excitement, wonder and awe associated with the developing taste for sublime objects and emotions. In the process romance began to assume meanings of love and adventure.

It was not only old poetry and tales that were collected, fictionalised and popularised. Prose fiction, developed from imported French romances began to blend 'antient and modern romance', as Horace Walpole put it in the preface to The Castle of Otranto (1764), to produce narratives set in a chivalric past but attuned to the developing middle-class tastes in the present. For the neo-classical critical establishment these kinds of fiction caused serious moral and aesthetic concern. Not only did they lack the formal regularity, symmetry, uniformity and proportion demanded by neo-classicism, but, by presenting a succession of wonderful events and characters, distorted the distinctions between virtue and vice that fiction was supposed to inculcate in its subservient didactic role in the upholding of eighteenth-century moral values. In the aesthetic artifices of romances and Gothic novels, moreover, the naturalness of manners, behaviour, and moral sentiments that were drawn from social life as proper models for imitation were rendered artificial themselves. For critics, romances and, often indiscriminately, the realistic novels of Fielding and Richardson, were monsters, an alarming 'new species' of writing.34 Unnatural, aesthetically and morally deformed, romance fictions abused rather than perpetuated the useful functions of monstrosity: to display vice in all its repulsiveness in order to affirm the boundary between and necessity of virtue. Many fictions, for critics of the eighteenth century, undermined these boundaries, a sign of the dangers fiction posed not only for aesthetic production, but for social reproduction.

In the concerns expressed by critics about the corrupting effects of romances on the morals of susceptible young, and particularly female, readers there emerged the threat of the complete deterioration of home, culture and society.35 Presenting 'a very unfit model for imitation' and producing 'a desire of resembling the fictitious heroine of a novel', fictions led to readers becoming 'entirely corrupted by the giddy and {179} fantastical notions of love and gallantry' or habituated to 'loose principles and immodest practices'.36 They disrupted domestic orders, constructing ideals that cannot be realised and leading to the, mostly female, rejection of paternal authority and domestic duty, 'perverted with chimerical ideas of romantic love' or 'crying for the imaginary distress of an heroine, while their children were crying for bread.'37 The metaphorical language of the romance exceeds the prescriptions of neo-classical aesthetics and morality in producing powerful identifications. Metaphor becomes the real monster to 'transport the reader unprofitably into the clouds, where he is sure to find no sold footing, or into the wilds of fancy, which go for ever out of the way of human paths.' There is no return, morally, socially or aesthetically, on the investments of reading. Romance metaphors produced the dangerous spectre of a 'monster of the imagination' spreading uncontrollably across all symbolic boundaries.38 The reception and success of The Sorrows of Young Werther inspired a flood of imitations and numerous outpourings of critical concern as well as fears of suicide epidemics and bans in various European towns.39

Reading Monsters

The reverberations of passionate excess evident in the spark between Ossian and Werther continue beyond any single text of love or romance: the repetition of passionate signifiers opens onto a field in which fiction, in the eighteenth century, became a site of anxiety. In Frankenstein, written when the popularity of the Gothic romance was on the wane, and thus eschewing most of its extravagant features and formulas, the effects of reading and writing are not only repeated, but staged and reexamined. Full of accounts of reading and its effects, the writing of Frankenstein foregrounds the structures that form subjectivity and monstrosity. The epistolary narratives that make up the text disclose the dependence of subjects on others, speakers on listeners and writers on readers. The text discloses, moreover, the reversibility of these relations as writers become readers, speakers become listeners, in the manner of the monstrously reversible relation between Frankenstein and the creation. Such a structure bars the subject from a singular and autonomous position. Moreover, it does not remain within the bounds apparently prescribed by its narrative frames: its 'chinese box' structure is overturned by the monster who does not stay encased in others' narratives. Breaking the frames imposed by Walton's and Frankenstein's accounts, the monster appears, at the end of the novel, and directly addresses Walton and his departed creator, then to disappear beyond the stories' incomplete frames. The text, then, does not present the narcissistically {180} contained image of closure and unity. Its disunity deforms it, presenting a monster in the terms of neo-classical aesthetics, a monster that reanimates the monstrous reversibility and unrepresentability of the figure it makes manifest. The monster remains both text and thing, an embodiment of ambivalent romance metaphors that exceed the finality of narcissistic closure in the symbolic passions of love.

The monster's position as Frankenstein's double discloses the uncanny ambivalence of metaphor. It is a creation made possible by Frankenstein's romance identifications. The mysteries and miracles promised by the alchemists and by Waldman's romanticisation of science lead to the torrential overcoming of boundaries and the vision of a new species. Both terms were used repeatedly in the eighteenth century to describe the flood of novels threatening to overwhelm proper aesthetic and social boundaries. Moreover, in Frankenstein's speculations on the dangerous propagation a female monster might spawn, he echoes fears about the spread of feminised fiction in the period. As text, the monster causes the duplication of romance anxieties, as ambivalent thing, as double, it confirms them. For Frankenstein, the monster is more than an alter-ego: the double inverts, completes and exceeds the human creator's project.

In the moment of its animation the monster presents the creative subject with a reflection of its narcissistic fantasy in a state of decomposition, an inverted image of the mirrored ideal. Reversing the antinomies governing Frankenstein's project, turning life into death, dissolving fullness and unity, replacing love with loathing and benevolence with violence, the monster fulfils the dream that is also a nightmare. More solitary, stronger and more passionate, however, it is the monster who proposes a glorious and sovereign end that completes, exceeds and undermines his creator's. In the demands he places on Frankenstein, the monster also undermines the position of mastery that is assumed. He demands of the Other what cannot be given, asks questions to which the creator has no answers and thus exposes his limitations, affirming the difference and alterity that Frankenstein can neither negate nor transcend.

With these demands the monster constitutes itself as more than the passively resistant and distant alter-ego, or narcissistic antitype. To make them, it has to speak. In speaking the monster becomes more monstrous still. Assuming, eloquently, a defining capacity of the human subject, the monster disrupts the naturalness of human identity as much as the human creator subverts the naturalness of nature: in creating a living thing from dead parts, Frankenstein Romantically transgresses the supposedly natural distinction of life and death; in taking the position of a human subject, the monster, conventionally out of nature and inhuman, dislocates humanism. Moreover, the monster's speech, enabled by his reading, Volney's Ruins in particular, continues to interrogate radically {181} the very nature, legitimacy and stability of human identity, authority and institutions. Humans, and the institutions they inhabit, emerge as divided entities, 'so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base' (p. 119).

By speaking independently, the monster exceeds the creator's narcissism by taking critical positions made available by a variety of textual identifications. He lives and, in living, elaborates, a different condition of incomplete subjectivity. A living thing, rather than an imaginary projection, recognised, albeit negatively by others, the monster exists beyond Frankenstein. While he wants a recognised place in a community of others, his desires are not, like Frankenstein, predicated on the assumption of absolute self-unity. Disrupting the supposed interiority of subjectivity, the monster breaks the mirror, in more ways than one, that Frankenstein holds before himself, shattering the imaginary unity of inside and outside that guides his passionate and narcissistic project the monster, like the language his textuality foregrounds, figures the extremity of subjectivity. Unlike Frankenstein, the monster has no sense of imaginary integrity and is prevented from misrecognising the mirror image as an ideal projecting beyond symbolic frameworks. He cannot (mis)assume a unified, prelinguistic self: his only ideals are shaped in symbolic relations. When the monster sees his reflection in a pool of water he is horrified, making no jubilant assumption of specular identity. For the monster, the specular relation is inadequate, hence his appeals for recognition to the blind father of the de Lacey family and his symbolic blinding of Frankenstein, covering his eyes before he tells him his story in the Alps.

But the monster has already 'seen' his reflection in the responses of Frankenstein and other humans, their repulsion constituting the moment of non-recognition that he repeats when he looks at his image in the pool. The monster's origin, as an assemblage of different narratives as well as bodily pieces, comes from textual identification rather than a body image. He discovers the secrets of his birth in laboratory notes he finds in the pocket of a coat he stole from the scene of his creation. However, before he can understand them, he must learn to read, uncover the secrets of that 'godlike science of letters' used by humans. This is done from the position of a voyeur. Through a crack in the wall, the monster watches a fallen bourgeois family. Moved by, though not understanding, the scenes he sees, it is only when a foreigner, Safie, the son's beloved, arrives, that the monster has the opportunity to learn and identify with human symbolisation. Safie is taught to speak the de Lacey's language. The monster is an avid student too, learning, at last, the meanings of the arbitrary sounds he had heard uncomprehendingly for so long. Acquiring language second-hand, subjectivity remains a purloined state, for ever outside, emanating from the external world of {182} signifiers: his identity is always someone else's. It is also purloined in the sense that it is never legitimated by an other person, never recognised by a community of distinct speaking beings. Though he has adopted a place in the symbolic by learning language, it is not a social place.

His understanding and critique of the human social world from which he has been excluded and his own position comes from books. These texts offer him a variety of identities, thus leaving him dependent on the metonymic relations of others' narratives. Finding a package of books which Peter Brooks describes as 'a kind of minimal Romantic cyclopedia universalis',40 the monster reads them, identifying with characters whose position appears similar to his: Milton's Adam and Satan, Goethe's Werther. The other text he enjoys, Plutarch's Lives, elevates him 'above the wretched sphere of my own reflections, to admire and love the heroes of past ages' (pp. 128-9). These figures, like the heroes of romance, provide a temporary sense of imaginary, metaphorical unity. In contrast, Adam, and the complaint that forms the epigraph of the novel that was dedicated to William Godwin, reflects the position of the creation in regard of the creator. Like Adam, the monster wants some reason, some meaning for being. While Adam's separate existence is akin to the monster's, everything else about him is, the monster laments, different. Satan seems a more appropriate figure: as outcast barred from the world of the phallic signifier, he rebels against it, venting his anger in acts of destruction: he burns down the De Lacey's cottage and kills members of Frankenstein's family. Echoing Satan's cry of 'evil be thou my good' in the phrase 'evil thenceforth became my good', the monster locates the rejection as the moment in which he turned into the other he was supposed to be, doing the violent, irrational, destructive and inhuman things a monster should do. The monster thus moves from the abjection of a being utterly excluded from, yet subordinated to, the symbolic order, to the sovereignty of a being who agonisingly relishes his exclusion and turns its violence back on the system that enforced it.

In the figure of Werther, however, the monster discovers a model that is less mythological. The story enlightens many 'obscure subjects', offering the monster 'a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment'; it provides the monster with 'lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self', a better image than the bourgeois domesticity of the De Lacey's. Werther, moreover, provides the ideal: 'I thought Werter himself a more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character contained no pretension, but it sunk deep'. In the spark of identification between monster and Werther, the former displays the patterns of Romantic reading. The books 'produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me to ecstacy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection.' Duplicating the passionate extremes of the narcissistic {183} Romantic subject, the monster performs a strange repetition in which Werther, the very image of his creator, becomes his own ideal. His love obeys the prescriptions of The Sorrows of Werther's preface: 'You will not be able to withhold your admiration or love for his mind and character or your tears for his fate' (p. 1). Indeed, all his textual models repeat prescribed patterns from romance and Romanticism: ancient heroes, Miltonic rebels, and sensitive souls and Promethean artists, present objects of love that direct the monster's desire and destiny. While the path of the monster's departure is free, there is, he observes, no one to 'lament his annihilation'. In the mourning of an ideal loss in Werther, an act he repeats on Frankenstein's death, he is already bound to their fate, his identity established by way of their metaphors, his destiny prescribed by the flight of the signifier.

His duplication and his repetitions, however, disclose a difference in his patterns of Romantic reading. While his mourning performs the blessing that Frankenstein wished of his 'new species', and the promised death the apotheosis of the creator's wishes, the way the monster, like the novel, stages processes and effects of reading, suggest critical differences. The monster says that he read all the volumes as a 'true history' (p. 129). In reading literary texts literally, however, he signals problems in Romantic patterns of metaphorical identification. While his statement appears as an attempt to stabilise distinctions between literal and figurative language that his acquisition of language's arbitrary system put in question, inserting a distance and difference between fiction and reality, it only continues the problems, for the subject, of metaphorical movement. As monster, an unnameable entity with a variety of names, he serves as a metaphorical substitute and as an embodiment of the metaphors guiding others' projects. At the same time his being and his identity can only be negatively metaphorised as he opens metaphor to metaphoricity. He tries, nonetheless, to make his reading of Werther literal, but fails: 'as I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar, yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings concerning whom I read, and to whose conversation I was a listener' (p. 128). Finding both similarity and difference, the monster remains doubled, unable to efface the gap that separates him from and binds him to others or to separate the literal and metaphorical dimensions of language. The strange dissimilarity of others is not effaced by his identification; he does not collapse in an ecstatically narcissistic union with his textual ideals. Reading, for him, encounters the ambivalence of language's uncanny. Providing doubles for the double, as his textual substitutes do, only accelerates the momentum of metaphorical reversibility.

Figures of identification provoke further destabilising questions for the subject, the monster: 'My person was hideous, and my stature {184} gigantic: what did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination?' Partial, unsatisfactory answers come from other texts, but the monster continues questioning. Literal reading becomes critical reading as, on the basis of his formative texts, the monster moves beyond questions of self and interrogates the insufficiency of logocentric language and the systems it shapes. In demonstrating the effects of doubled language, the monster moves beyond bodies, characters and persons to critique the figures and structures of human institutions. This is a position that the fractured frame structure of Frankenstein establishes for the reader: by staging reading in the story, the epistolary structure of multiple first-person narratives simultaneously invites personal identification and displaces it, to leave no secure position at the end. Indeed, the final reader of the letters in the text, Walton's sister, Margaret Saville, never appears in the novel: a marginal and uncertain reading position remains the destination of the letters. A critical distance is established, questioning the limits of the Romantic subject of love and interrogating, also, the structures, conditions and effects of its textual reproduction.


1. Georges Bataille, Guilty, tr. Bruce Boone (San Francisco: Lapis Press, 1988), p. 158.

2. Respectively, Julia Kristeva, Tales of Love, tr. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 5 and Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse, tr. Richard Howard (New York: Noonday Press, 1978), p. 1.

3. See Mary Poovey, '"My Hideous Progeny": Mary Shelley and the feminization of Romanticism', PMLA 95 (1980), pp. 332-47; Anne K. Mellor, Mary Shelley (London: Routledge, 1988); Margaret Homans, Bearing the World (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 1986).

4. Joseph Kestner, 'Narcissism as symptom and structure: the case of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein', in The Nature of Identity (Tulsa: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981), pp. 15-25.

5. G. W. F. Hegel, 'The Spirit of Christianity', in Early Theological Writings, tr. T. M. Knox (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1948), p. 247.

6. G. W. F. Hegel, 'Two fragments on love', trans. H. S. Harris, Clio 7 (1978/9), 257-65, p. 261.

7. Hegel, 'Love', Early Theological Writings, p. 305.

8. G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 478.

9. G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, tr. T. M. Knox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 110.

10. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, tr. Michael Hulse (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989), p. 55. All further references, cited in brackets in the text, will be to this edition.

11. M.H. Abrams, 'The correspondent breeze: a Romantic metaphor', in Abrams (ed.) English Romantic Poets (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975).

12. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. M.K. Joseph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 33. All further references, cited in brackets in the text, will be to this edition.

13. Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, tr. James Nichols Jr. (New York: Basic Books, 1969), p. 5.

14. Jacques Lacan, 'Desire and the interpretation of desire in Hamlet', Yale French Studies 55/6 (1977), 11-52, p. 31.

15. Georges Bataille, Inner Experience, tr. Leslie Anne Boldt (New York: State University of New York Press, 1988), p. 73.

16. Maurice Blanchot, The Unavowable Community, tr. Pierre Joris (Station Hill Press: New York, 1988), pp. 2-7.

17. Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil, tr. Alastair Hamilton (London: Calder and Boyars, 1973), pp. 16-17.

18. Denis de Rougemont, Passion and Society, tr. Montgomery Belgion (London: Faber and Faber, 1956), p. 1.

19. Georges Bataille, 'Open Letter to Rene Char', Yale French Studies, 78 (1990), 31-43, p. 34.

20. See Georges Bataille, Theory of Religion, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Zone, 1989), pp. 48-9.

21. See Beth Newman, 'Narratives of seduction and the seductions of narrative: the frame structure of Frankenstein', English Literary History, 53 (1986), pp. 141-61.

22. Sigmund Freud, 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle' (1920), Standard Edition XVIII, trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1955), pp. 1-64.

23. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book I, tr. John Forrester (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 142.

24. Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny' (1919), Standard Edition XVII, tr. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1955), 218-56, p. 235. Also, Mladen Dolar. '"I shall be with you on your wedding night": Lacan and the uncanny', October, 58 (1991), pp. 5-23.

25. See Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Tavistock, 1977), pp. 1-7 and Seminar I, p. 79.

26. Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, trans. Alan Sheridan (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1997), p. 103.

27. Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, trans. Dennis Porter (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 150.

28. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II, trans. Sylvana Tomaselli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 265.

29. Jacques Lacan, The Psychoses, trans. Russell Grigg (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 55.

30. Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'Essay on Love', in David Lee Clark (ed.), Shelley's Prose or the Trumpet of Prophecy (London: Fourth Estate, 1988), p. 170.

31. Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (London: Athlone, 1981), p. 268, n. 67.

32. Hélène Cixous, 'Fiction and its phantoms: a reading of Freud's Das Unheimliche (the "uncanny")', New Literary History, 7 (1976), 525-48, pp. 536, 543.

33. See Arthur Johnston, Enchanted Ground (London: Athlone, 1964); Gillian Beer, The Romance (London: Methuen, 1970); Hugh Blair, A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian (1765), (New York: Garland, 1970).

34. Ioan Williams, Novel and Romance 1700-1800 (London: Routledge, 1970).

35. Peter de Bolla, The Discourse of the Sublime (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), p. 260.

36. William Cumberland, The Observer 27 (1785); Henry Pye, A Commentary Illustrating the Poetic of Aristotle (1786); T. Row, Letter, Gentleman's Magazine xxxvii (1767); Anon., Letter, Gentleman's Magazine (1788). In Williams, pp. 333, 337, 272.

37. Richard Berenger, The World 79 (1954), in Williams, p. 214; J. L. Chirol, An Enquiry into the Best System of Female Education (London, 1809), p. 234; in de Bolla, p. 260.

38. Review of Peregrine Pickle, The Monthly Review (March 1751), in Williams, p. 162.

39. See Michael Hulse, Introduction to Werther, pp. 11-15.

40. Peter Brooks, Body Work (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 205.

41. Roswitha Burwick, 'Goethe's Werther and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein', Wordsworth Circle 24 (1993), pp. 47-52.

42. Barbara Johnson, 'My monster/my self', diacritics 12 (1982), pp. 2-10.

43. Marc A. Rubenstein, '"My accursed origin": the search for the mother in Frankenstein', Studies in Romanticism 15 (1976), pp. 165-94.

"44". See Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution (1789-1820) (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983), and Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein's Shadow (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987).