Contents Index

Frankenstein with Kant: A Theory of Monstrosity, or the Monstrosity of Theory

Barbara Freeman

Substance, 52 (1987), 21-31

{21} The sort of interrogation I am proposing is neither philosophical nor literary but something in between these two. On the one hand, it is a testing out of the shifting boundary between philosophy, personified by Kant's Critique of Judgment, and literature, represented by Shelley's Frankenstein; on the other, it investigates what rebounds from these two texts: what comes back, or returns. If as Deleuze says, "we have the Critique of Judgment as the foundation of Romanticism," perhaps Frankenstein is already encased in and anticipated by Kantian theory.1 Correlatively, perhaps these texts, each the inverse of the other, predict and possibly even determine the shape of theory in the late twentieth century. If we are the heirs of Frankenstein and the third Critique -- as much read by them as readers of them -- what have we inherited, to whom are we indebted, and what are our debts? My thesis is that Victor Frankenstein's Monster is the third Critique's heir, and that we are its inheritor.

First I argue that, in a philosophic register, Kant's depiction or construction of the sublime simultaneously portrays and defends itself against monstrosity; second that, in a literary register, Frankenstein makes explicit and dramatizes what Kant's analytic contains but cannot say, demonstrating that the shape of the sublime, which fulfills the metaphysician's desire, is precisely that of monstrosity; and third, that Shelley's Frankenstein and Kant's Critique of Judgment together predict the form of contemporary theory -- "the as yet unnameable which is proclaiming itself in the terrifying form of monstrosity," as Derrida said when he brought Deconstruction (sometimes described as "the French plague") to Baltimore in 1966. Through investigating the ways in which these two texts mutually inhabit and enact each other, I suggest that Kant's theory of the sublime is not only a form of the monstrous but also a figure for theory as such -- perhaps even the paradigmatic form of it, and that theory in turn is itself monstrous or Frankensteinian. The romantic vision of the future prophesied by Shelley as monstrous and incarnated theoretically by the {22} Kantian sublime is fulfilled in the present: specifically, by the terroristic effect produced by the missiles of contemporary French philosophy which, perhaps autobiographically reflecting upon the sublime, itself may be an instance of that which it purports merely to describe.

Kant's construction of the sublime is bound up in a system of encasements, injunctions, and imperatives that function to protect the sublime from the monstrous potential inherent in it. The identity of the sublime, itself "a mere appendix"2 to the concept of the beautiful and aesthetic judgment, is dependent upon a series of negations or appendages that constitute and frame it. Product of and produced by what it excludes, the sublime becomes what it is only by virtue of being distinguished from what it is not, and in every case that to which Kant opposes it is negative, dangerous, destructive.

From paragraphs 26 to 29, the principal sections in which Kant discusses the mathematical and dynamical sublime, four pairs of oppositions are presented, each of which is crucial to the definition of the sublime. Every couple functions to split the sublime in two, separating what is moral and good in it, on the right side of the Law, from what is illegal, marginal, on the outside. At stake is Kant's need to keep the sublime within its aesthetic encasement, so that, like the beautiful, it too may remain a symbol of "the morally good."

Sublime states of mind first must be produced by colossal but not monstrous representations of nature (par. 26, p. 91 ); second, they should provoke religious sentiments, giving rise to "reverence," as opposed to superstition, which instills "fear and apprehension" (par. 28, p. 103); third, the sublime can include affection, wherein the mind's freedom is merely hindered, but not passion, in which its freedom is abolished (par. 29, p. 113); last, sublime states of mind may involve enthusiasm, even though the latter carries with it the temporary risk of "unbridled imagination," but not fanaticism, in which the imagination, as if diseased, becomes "anomalous" or abnormal (par. 29, p. 116). In each case, Kant briefly represents the negative quality that might, if he did not quickly exclude it, become identified with the sublime and prevent it from being an aesthetic, hence legislatable, category.

Although each couple has its own fascination, here I will discuss only the distinction between the colossal and the monstrous, since it is perhaps most germane to a reading of Frankenstein. Kant defines the colossal as "the presentation of concepts almost too great for any presentation" (par. 26, p. 91). The difference between the colossal and the monstrous is a matter of degree: the colossal, although it "borders on the relatively monstrous," is never quite identical to it. Whereas the colossal involves "the intuition of an object almost too great for our faculty of apprehension" (my emphasis), the monstrous object is defined by Kant as one that "by its size, destroys the purpose which constitutes the concept of it" (par. 26, p. 91 ). By identifying the sublime exclusively with the colossal, then, Kant attempts to shield it from the monstrous object's "destructive" {23} force. Sensitive to the possibility of confusing "things in nature the concepts of which bring with them a definite purpose" (e.g., animals with a "known natural destination") with "rude nature" (e.g., nonpurposive natural objects), Kant next cautions that the former, precisely because of its proximity to the monstrous, must never be allowed to "exhibit the sublime." But because "rude nature," on the other hand, "contains nothing monstrous (either magnificent or horrible)" and will thus always yield purely colossal representations, Kant insists that the sublime be exhibited only "in rude nature merely as involving magnitude" (par. 26, p. 91). The negative and extrinsic, in this case identified with the "monstrous," functions as a boundary line that shores up and gives definition to the positive, intrinsic, or "colossal." And although these divisions help to enclose the sublime within a theory of the beautiful that is encased by a theory of taste itself encased by a theory of judgment, an extremely fragile line divides the positive aspect of the sublime from its negative, destructive side. The sublime can never be contained because part of what has been removed and put outside still remains within, and what has been excluded may always return, as if from without. In this case, its name is Frankenstein, for between them Victor and his Monster stage everything Kant is careful to say the sublime isn't, but secretly is.

As Derrida remarked in another context, "The frame doesn't fit."3 In the case of Frankenstein, his comment may be taken literally: as Victor observes, the first time he sees what has turned out to be a monster, "His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath" [1.4.1].4 The fit of the monster's skin is comparable to the encasement of the sublime within Kantian theory: Frankenstein demonstrates that the frame in which Kant encloses the sublime is too tight.5

Victor has tried expressly to create a "being of gigantic stature," one whose size, "about eight feet in height and proportionally large" (49), would reflect Victor's lofty ambition and the magnitude of his task. It is supremely important that his creation be beautiful. Initially, the Monster's monstrosity is an effect of how he looks and not what he does. As soon as Victor sees the creature take its first breath and "agitate its limbs," he can barely find words adequate to his distress at the creature's ugliness: "How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God!" (52). Victor proceeds to chronicle the Monster's various atrocities: "his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the sunken white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips" (52). Victor had intended to create something magnificent and instead gives birth to a "catastrophe." Indeed, Frankenstein can be read almost as a parody of the Critique of Judgment, for in it everything Kant identifies with or as sublime, including the products of sublimation, yield precisely what Kant prohibits: terror, monstrosity, passion, and fanaticism.

{24} All the things Kant's sublime is supposed to be and do -- for example, "raise the energies of the soul above their accustomed height" (par. 28, p. 100) and produce a conviction of the mind's "superiority to nature even in its immensity" (par. 28, p. 101) -- the vision of the sublime in Frankenstein systematically inverts. Even the topography of the novel, full of mountain heights, elevated vistas, and crashing thunder, sounds like Kant's description of a sublime landscape. The reader might encounter the following topos, "clouds piled up in the sky, moving with lightning flashes and thunder peals . . . the dread and holy awe which seizes the observer at the sight of mountain peaks rearing themselves to heaven, deep chasms and streams raging therein, deep-shadowed solitudes that dispose one to melancholy meditation" (par. 28, pp. 101,102) in one of Victor's accounts of a journey to Mont Blanc near his home in Geneva. But whereas in Kant "the irresistibility of (nature's) might . . . discloses to us a faculty of judging independently of and a superiority over nature" (par. 28, p. 101 ), in Frankenstein an identical geography produces neither peace of mind nor aesthetic pleasure, but rather a vision of and an encounter with monstrosity. Each time a sublime landscape is depicted, it is linked to the Monster's appearance. Indeed, after the Monster's birth at Ingolstadt, Victor's meetings with him take place only at the tops of mountains, on glaciers surrounded by fields of ice, or during violent storms, amidst echoing thunder and repeated, dazzling flashes of lightning. The landscape is the same as Kant's -- that of Nature in all her might and majesty, but the effect (and affect) produced is not.

In Longinus, as in Kant, the lightning flash is one of the most privileged examples of the sublime. Longinus even posits an equivalence between them: sublime oratory, which exhibits a "genuine power over language" is like "a flash of lightning" in that both "strike the hearer," "rend everything before them" and in so doing "reveal the full might of the orator."6 In Frankenstein lightning illuminates the sky and does indeed reveal the orator's full might, but the Monster is the one who possesses the gift of eloquence; and the sublime flash of lightning, even while it yields a moment of sheer luminosity, also brings with it utter devastation.

When Victor is fifteen he watches a "terrible thunderstorm" in the security of his home "with curiosity and delight." But lightning strikes a nearby "old and beautiful" oak, and a stream of fire issues from the tree that tears it to ribbons. Nature's sublime and dazzling lightning flash destroys the beautiful oak and in so doing foretells the future's shape: the lightning destroys the tree as the monster will destroy Victor and his family. Nothing remains but a "blasted stump." From the very outset, then, the sublime in Frankenstein lays waste to the beautiful and brings with it decimation. "I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed" (35), Victor says. The next flash of lightning in fact brings him face to face with monstrosity. Walking in the Alps on the way home after the murder of his brother William, Victor watches lightning "play on the summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures" (70), and continues the ascent while {25} "vivid flashes of lightning" dazzle his eyes and illuminate the lake, "making it appear like a vast sheet of fire" (71). But again a naturally beautiful form, or "figure," is blasted away by the sublime, for here Victor meets the Monster for the first time. "I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me . . . A flash of lightning illuminated the object and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon, to whom I had given life" (71). Moments of pure vision indeed illuminate "the truth," but its shape is as monstrous as it is sublime.

What the lightning shows is that metaphysics' faith in vision as an adequate index to the truth is misplaced. Lightning in Frankenstein calls into question metaphysics' assumption that vision is an accurate judge of the truth, which is also presumed to be both good and beautiful. This belief, or bias, is reflected by Kant's conviction that beauty is the ultimate symbol of the good (par. 59 of the third Critique is titled "Of Beauty as the Symbol of Morality"), and Victor's assumption that, because his progeny's shape is monstrous, so must be his spirit. The novel stages metaphysics' faith that truth is something that can be seen: no one questions the supposition that the true is identical to the good (which has a beautiful, or at least a pleasing, form), or that eyes and vision have a closer proximity to "the truth" than ears and hearing. The only human who ever says a kind word to the Monster is the old, blind man De Lacey (whose name contains the word for what he cannot do, i.e., see), and even he trusts the evidence of his families' eyes rather than his own ears: when the family returns and see the Monster clinging to their father's knees, Agatha faints, Safie flees, and Felix beats him up. The Monster's voice is his only pleasing attribute: "although harsh," it has "nothing terrible in it" (128), but his very eloquence makes him suspect. At the end Victor warns Walton not to be seduced by the Monster's rhetorical power when they meet: "He is eloquent and persuasive; and once his words had even power over my heart: but trust him not . . . hear him not" (206). By aligning the lightning, the monster, and the sublime, the novel shows that Longinus's "genuine power" -- poetic or otherwise -- may produce devastation as easily as beauty, and that the sublime has a power beauty does not have, one that has no necessary connection to the realms of ethics or aesthetics.

Romanticism's vision of itself, as of the future, is, with metaphysics, deeply implicated in the problematic of vision. In our tradition, as Heidegger has pointed out, the notions of vision and theory are closely linked.7 "Theory" comes from the Greek theorein, which combines rhea, the visible aspect of things, and horao, which means to look at something closely or view it attentively. This rapport suggests that, at least in the West, the sense of sight has become a metaphor for knowledge itself. The etymology of the word "theory" is particularly interesting because Victor calls natural philosophy "the genius that has regulated my fate" (32), while for Kant the provinces of natural philosophy and theory are almost {26} identical: "Philosophy," be tells us, "is correctly divided into two parts quite distinct in their principles: the theoretical part, or natural philosophy; and the practical part, or Moral Philosophy" (Intro., 7). Victor, whose inquiries are "directed to the metaphysical or, in the highest sense, the physical secrets of the world" (32), may be said to personify metaphysics' desire for transparent meaning, showing the ways in which the theorist's very commitment to theory also leads to a certain blindness.

Victor represents Kant's "natural philosopher" or "theorist" to the letter. According to Kant, the province of theoretical philosophy is precisely the "doctrine of nature": "legislation through natural concepts is carried on by means of the understanding and is theoretical" (Intro., 10); and it is precisely to the study of natural philosophy, or metaphysics, that Victor, in his "fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature" (34), turns. From the day that he hears Professor Waldman lecture on the advancements that modern natural philosophy has made and the improvements it can be expected to accomplish, "natural philosophy and particularly chemistry in the most comprehensive sense of the term" become nearly his "sole occupation" (45).

Victor, like Kant, wants knowledge of the foundations and ultimate causes of things. His belief that metaphysics can give access to "the secrets of heaven and earth" (32) is similar to Kant's faith that knowledge is built upon stable foundations that reason can locate, and, independently of experience, use "to establish the unity of all empirical principles under higher ones and hence to establish the possibility of their systematic subordination" (Intro., 16). Kant's topographical, and territorialistic, view of knowledge as a geographical realm that reason can chart, divide, bridge, and then connect to other domains is of a piece with his faith in the stability of its foundations; his certainty that knowledge has an unchanging ground on which the theorist can construct an edifice reflects the extent to which metaphysics, albeit unconsciously, is committed to, if not constituted by, the thematics of sight. The desire that pervades the Critique of Judgment, that is, to demonstrate that "the feeling of pleasure is determined by a ground a priori and valid for every man" (Intro., 23), and the utter confidence in the attainability of such an end is congruent with Victor's certainty that the acquisition of knowledge can give him insight into the nature of nature itself, and that metaphysics will yield a moment of pure, unmediated vision.

The ways in which Victor provides a portrait of Kant, or a mirror of metaphysical desire, allows one to ask this crucial question: What is the logic that links the theorist's desire for truth, which Derrida has called "the desire of reason as desire for a grounded structure," to a wish for the sublime and the construction of monstrosity?8 Victor is to the Monster he creates and refuses to acknowledge what Kant is to the sublime he authors and will not admit. Today we are faced with or have inherited what Romanticism, envisioning the future, invented and then refused to see. The twin meanings of the word "monstrosity" help to explain the {27} connection between the sublime on the one hand and theory, or the theorist, on the other. Just as Kant's most general definition of the sublime is bound up with magnitude ("We call that sublime which is absolutely great . . . the sublime is that in comparison with which everything else is small" [par. 25, pp. 87, 88]), so the word "monster" is defined most frequently as something of huge and often unmanageable proportions. An initial rapport between sublimity and monstrosity, then, consists in their enormity, their almost unnatural size. The affinity between them, however, not only pertains to magnitude, but resides in a certain relationship to theory: "monster" also means something shown, proven, or demonstrated -- like an idea or argument. From the Latin monstrum, "monster" originally meant a divine portent or warning, so that from the outset it has born a prophetic relationship to, or been a sign of, the future. What is important here, however, is that the French monstre (a relative of montrer, to show) was once in English a now obsolete form of monster, and meant both something huge or enormous, and a demonstration or proof, something shown or exhibited. A whole family of English words reflects this conjunction: monstrable means capable of being shown; monstrance means demonstration or proof; to monstrate is to prove; a monstration means a demonstration; and the archaic verb to monster meant to exhibit or point out. Theory, then, the showing or demonstrating of an argument or concept, is not only bound up with vision, but the very notion of showing is itself bound up with, indeed a synonym for, monstrosity: monstrosity is as involved with demonstrating and proving as proving is with monstrosity. This conjunction suggests that an investigation of monstrosity might yield a theory of theory and that, correlatively, an investigation of monstrosity might demonstrate something about demonstration, about that which purports to contain the sublime and prohibit the monstrous, while exhibiting the differences between them.

The etymology of "monster" (or of the French monstre, since in Frankenstein the Monster's mother-tongue is French) allows an elaboration of theory as a form of monstrosity, and an exploration of sublimity as a form of, even a figure for, theory. The word monster also means "a threatening force, an engulfing power," which describes both the movement of theory today and what the Monster in Frankenstein does. Just as in the last decade theory has acted like a monster by appropriating departments of Humanities and Letters and by blurring traditional distinctions between literature and philosophy (thereby confounding, or amalgamating, the study of beauty with that of truth), so the sublime, as if it personified theory itself, has lately become the principal subject of theoretical inquiry. In this regard it is perhaps worth noting that the word "frank" once meant "free from bondage or restraint," and that Kant's sublime "is to be found in a formless object, so far as in it or by occasion of it boundlessness is represented" (par. 23, p. 82). If being "free from bondage" is a condition for "boundlessness," Frankenstein's name contains the word that is synonymous to, or one of the properties of, the sublime. Today the sublime, {28} unbound, blasted out of its aesthetic encasement, has taken over, even dominates the realm of theory.

In the last decade, virtually every major French theorist -- Deleuze, Derrida, Kristeva, Lacan, Lacoue-Labarthe, Lyotard, Marin, Nancy -- and an increasing number of Americans -- de Man, Chase, Ferguson, Hertz, Klein, Weber, Weiskel, to name but a few -- have written about Kant, the sublime, or a combination thereof. Not only has there been an explosion of interest in the sublime but the rapid spread and proliferation of contemporary theory may be a version of the sublime, suggesting that theory today is also an instance of what it analyzes and describes. Neil Hertz, for example, cites Kant's mathematical sublime to illustrate "the current intellectual scene." According to Hertz, the sheer magnitude and variety of theories produces a sublime effect:

Kant alludes to "the bewilderment or, as it were, perplexity which it is said seizes the spectator on his first entrance into St. Peters at Rome," but one needn't go to Rome to experience bewilderment or perplexity. They are available in quantity much closer to home. Professional explainers of literature have only to try to locate themselves in the current intellectual scene, to try to determine what is to be learned from the linguists or the philosophers or the pyschoanalysts or the political economists, in order to experience the requisite mental overload, and possibly even that momentary checking of the vital powers.9
Terror, for Burke "in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently, the ruling principle of the sublime," is currently employed to describe the effect produced by the texts of contemporary French theorists, especially Derrida.10 Geoffrey Hartman, for example, in a review of Christopher Norris's book on deconstruction, remarks that "the contemporary critical essay often demands a knowledge that is highly specialized and uses a vocabulary drawn from various theorists. One can feel terrorized rather than instructed -- let alone delighted" (emphasis added).11 And according to John Searle, even Michel Foucault "once characterized Derrida's prose style as an 'obscurantisme terroriste.'"12

This international preoccupation perhaps reflects a resemblance between the sublime on the one hand and theory on the other. It is as if the sublime has become not only the privileged object of contemporary theory, but a figure for theory as such, illustrating the ways in which theory refers to, represents, or cites itself, and naming the kind of activity -- that of incorporation -- characteristic of and proper to theory. The very name Frankenstein is emblematic of this movement, for the title, once intended to name only the Monster's progenitor, now refers to the Monster instead. Indeed, "frankenstein" is even a word in its own right: according to Webster's, it means a monster in the shape of a man; a work or agency that proves troublesome to or destroys its creator; and a law unto itself, interested largely in its own perpetuation and expansion. "Frankenstein," then, is an example of a word that monsterizes, for the {29} Monster has appropriated not only the novel's title, but his creator's very name.

Like Frankenstein's Monster, theory devours whatever it encounters, be it a discourse, text, individual, or institution. The terroristic effect of theory, as of monstrosity, resides in its capacity to incorporate and swallow up another entity without leakage or cessation of appetite. Lately, deconstructive theory in particular has infiltrated and then devoured departments of languages and literature, becoming the focus of attention, breaking down institutional divisions and domains. What terrorizes those who oppose it -- and even those who do not -- is its totalizing power and the rapidity with which it spreads, as if the university's immune system has no defense against it.13 For this reason, Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, both sympathizers, call deconstruction "a monster with an omnivorous appetite and the capability of devouring all opposition -- virtually everything."14 It is as if the future of the so-called Sciences of Man has been, or is in the process of being, monsterized by theory.

Two of Derrida's early texts conclude by remarking upon the inability to envision the future other than with recourse to the notion of monstrosity. In the last paragraphs of "Structure, Sign, and Play" (1966) and the exergue to part one of Of Grammatology (1967), Derrida attempts to imagine the future as "a radical departure from the present" and is drawn, as if by necessity, to the metaphor of the monstrous, if metaphor indeed it is. At the end of "Structure, Sign, and Play," after maintaining that there is no question of choosing between two interpretations of interpretation, Rousseauean nostalgia versus Nietzschean play, Derrida says that we are only beginning to glimpse "the conception, formation, gestation, and labor of a kind of question," and then concludes with this now-famous sentence:

I employ these words, I admit, with a glance toward the operation of child-bearing -- but also with a glance toward those who, in a society from which I do not exclude myself, turn their eyes away when faced by the as yet unnameable which is proclaiming itself and which can do so, as is necessary whenever a birth is in the offing, only under the species of the nonspecies, in the formless, mute, infant, and terrifying form of monstrosity.15
Who or what is named by Derrida? Who indeed is Frankenstein's heir?

The same conjunction occurs in the last paragraph of the exergue to "Writing before the letter." As if anticipating Glas, the hybrid, multigenred parody of philosophy and literature, Derrida writes that "the future which proclaims itself at present, beyond the closure of knowledge . . . can only be anticipated in the form of an absolute danger. It is that which breaks absolutely with constituted normality and can only be proclaimed, presented, as a sort of monstrosity."16 Why can the future be "presented" only "as a sort of monstrosity"? The last sentence of the exergue, in which Derrida remarks that something "within the future world . . . will have put into question the values of sign, word and writing" {30} offers a clue."17 Perhaps the remainder of Of Grammatology, which Derrida's exergue anticipates, itself constitutes the extended putting into question Derrida associates with monstrosity.

Rosalind Krauss, in her influential essay "Poststructuralism and the 'Paraliterary,'" speculates about a new genre she calls "paraliterary," which is neither criticism nor fiction, philosophy nor literature, but something composed of both and identical to neither. The paraliterary, according to Krauss, "cannot be called criticism, but it cannot, for that matter, be called non-criticism either. Rather, criticism finds itself caught in a dramatic web of many voices, citations, asides, divagations." Krauss describes it as "the space of debate, quotation, partisanship, betrayal, and reconciliation."18 Citing Derrida's work -- "aside from its rather terroristic reductiveness" -- as exemplary of this genre, Krauss adds that the very creation of the paraliterary is "the result of theory -- their own theories in operation, so to speak."19 I submit that Romanticism's vision of the future was a vision of and is identical to theory itself, and that the practice of theory, theory in action, is itself the terrifying species or "species of the nonspecies" Derrida finds unrepresentable. It is as if what Kant was barely able to contain and Shelley staged as monstrous already carried with it a prophecy or warning, predicting, or determining, the shape of theory's future as monstrous and sublime.

Fredric Jameson suggests that in the last generation a new kind of "theoretical discourse" has emerged, that it is a manifestation, indeed the principal form of postmodernism, and that it "marks the end of philosophy as such":

A generation ago there was still a technical discourse of professional philosophy . . . alongside which one could still distinguish the quite different discourse of the other academic disciplines. . . . Today, increasingly, we have a kind of writing simply called 'theory' . . . this new kind of discourse, generally associated with France and so-called French theory, is becoming widespread and marks the end of philosophy as such.20
It may also mark, if not the end of literature, the end of any unproblematic distinction or stable demarcation between the genres of philosophy and literature. Theory in practice, as practice, threatens to displace the conjunction between "philosophy" and "literature," and replace it with a hyphen, the diacritical mark that both divides words and compounds them. In the place of a connection, or, to borrow one of Kant's favorite metaphors, a bridge between the domains of philosophy and literature, one may find instead the sign that indicates a merger has taken place -- and that a birth still remains in the offing.


1. Gilles Deleuze, Kant's Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. xii.

2. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement, trans. J. H. Bernard (New York: Hafner, 1968), par. 23, p. 85. Subsequent citations are from this edition and included in the text.

3. Jacques Derrida, "The Parergon," trans. Craig Owens, October, No. 9 (Summer 1979), p. 30.

4. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, ed. James Rieger (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 52. Subsequent citations in the text are to this edition of the 1818 version of the novel.

5. Frances Ferguson, discussing Frankenstein's relationship to nuclear thinking and discourse in her elegant article "The Nuclear Sublime," also points out that the Monster's "skin is too tight." According to Ferguson, "The monster . . . is stretched too thin, as if his skin represented an unsuccessful effort to impose unity on his various disparate parts." See "The Nuclear Sublime," Diacritics, 14, no. 2 (Summer 1984), pp. 8-9.

6. Longinus, On Literary Excellence, Literary Criticism: Plato to Dryden, ed. Allan H. Gilbert (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1962), p. 174.

7. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, trans. W. Lovitt (New York: Harper, 1977), pp. 163-65.

8. Derrida, "The Parergon," p. 8.

9. Neil Hertz, "The Notion of Blockage in the Literature of the Sublime," Psychoanalysis and the Question of the Text, ed. Geoffrey H. Hartman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978), p. 62.

10. Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, ed. James T. Boulton (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Univ. Press, 1968), p. 58.

11. Geoffrey Hartman, "Wild, Fierce Yale," London Review of Books, Oct. 2l-Nov. 3, 1982, p. 26.

12. John R. Searle, "The Word Turned Upside Down," New York Review of Books, 30, no. 16 (Oct. 27, 1983), p. 77.

13. Avital Ronell, in "Queen's of the Night: Nietzsche's Antibodies," develops the idea that "The dominant metaphors used to describe the defense and conservation, the immunity or decline of a body politic, or a given institutional body, derive primarily from physiology." I am indebted to her suggestive reading of theories' relationship to "immunodeficiency." See "Queen's of the Night: Nietzsche's Antibodies," Genre, 16 (Winter 1983), p. 405.

14. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, "Introduction: The Ends of Deconstruction," Rhetoric and Form: Deconstruction at Yale, ed. R. C. Davis and R. Schleifer (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1985), p. 6.

15. Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play," trans. Alan Bass, Writing and Difference (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978), p. 293.

16. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1976), p. 5.

17. Of Grammatology, p. 5.

18. Rosalind Krauss, "Poststructuralism and the 'Paraliterary,'" October, no. 13 (Summer 1980), p. 37.

19. Krauss, p. 38.

20. Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism and Consumer Society," The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Port Townsend: Bay Press, 1983), p. 112.