Contents Index

Custody Battles: Reproducing Knowledge about Frankenstein

Ellen Cronan Rose

New Literary History, 26 (1995), 809-32

{809} THE COMBINED FORCES of deconstruction, reader-response theory, and publications from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University have dislodged forever the once firmly held view that the "meaning" of a text is fixed and transhistorically available to the (properly trained) reader. Save for the occasional unredeemed formalist, most scholars would agree with the editors of the British journal Literature and History that texts are "produced not just once, but time and again for each succeeding generation," which makes "its own sense of the text for its own purposes.1 Indeed, one reason certain texts become "canonical" may be their plasticity, their capacity for adaptation to the complex, often bifurcated needs and sensibilities of successive generations of readers. Frankenstein is a case in point, as Paul O'Flinn observes: "Mary Shelley's monster, having resisted his creator's attempts to eliminate him in the book, is able to reproduce himself with the variety and fertility that Frankenstein had feared. Apart from steady sales in Penguin, Everyman and OUP editions, there have been over a hundred film adaptations and there have been the Charles Addams cartoons in the New Yorker . . . in South Africa in 1955 the work was banned as indecent and objectionable."2 "There is no such thing as Frankenstein," O'Flinn concludes; "there are only Frankensteins, as the text is ceaselessly rewritten, reproduced, refilmed and redesigned" (197). When O'Flinn asks how "alteration and realignment" of a text are effected throughout history, he proposes "the operations of criticism" and "the unfolding of history itself" as two distinct and separable agents of change (197). It is possible, however, to use recent criticism of Frankenstein to demonstrate that "the operations of criticism" are profoundly affected by "the unfolding of history."

O'Flinn refers to recent feminist criticism of Frankenstein as an example of the "operations of criticism" that contribute to historical {810} shifts in a text's meaning, without asking why a criticism that demonstrates that Frankenstein "articulate[s] elements of woman's experience of patriarchy, the family and the trauma of giving birth" should have appeared when it did and not before (197). I suggest that this meaning of Shelley's text was not publishable before the emergence of a constellation of political, social, cultural, and institutional conditions in the mid-1970s. Specifically, a reading of the novel that focused on its implications for biological reproduction was unlikely until procreation had become an issue of concern to an increasingly numerous, articulate, and politically conscious body of women and until sufficient numbers of those women had entered the academy as feminist scholars. It was, not coincidentally, in the 1970s that Kate Chopin's The Awakening, with its central yet critically silenced themes of the horrors of birthing and the costs of mothering, was "rediscovered" -- by feminist scholars.

Feminist criticism of Frankenstein has caused anxiety to some male critics. It has also revealed anxieties of its own. In this essay, I will be arguing that as recent criticism of Frankenstein by men and women, feminists and nonfeminists, contests the right to produce knowledge about a major text of English romanticism, it manifests anxieties that eerily reflect the text's anxieties about gender and procreation. In order to develop this argument, I begin with a brief summary of what may be said to comprise the scholarly Establishment's understanding of what "feminists" think about Frankenstein, based on a relatively select group of essays published in prestigious journals (Critical Inquiry, diacritics, New Literary History, and PMLA) that are cited repeatedly by other critics of the novel.3 I then entertain some speculations about what this apparently academic affair has to do with white middle-class American women's anxieties about biological reproduction. And I conclude by pondering the implications, for cultural history, of the most recent turn in feminist criticism of Frankenstein.


In 1965, Harold Bloom characterized Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a primer to the really significant literature of the period: "What makes Frankenstein an important book, though it is only a strong, flawed novel with frequent clumsiness in its narrative and characterization, is that it contains one of the most vivid versions we have of the Romantic mythology of the self, one that resembles Blake's Book of Urizen, Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, and Byron's Manfred, among other works. Because it lacks the sophistication and imaginative complexity of such works, Frankenstein affords a unique introduction to the archetypal world of the Romantics."4 Although Bloom's essay arguably continues to influence {811} readers, since it has been reproduced to serve as the afterword to the Signet Classics paperback edition of Frankenstein, there is no doubt that scholarly opinion of Shelley's novel has changed in the nearly thirty years since his "Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus" was published in the Partisan Review. Frankenstein is today generally regarded as a powerful critique, rather than a passive reflection, of the romanticism of Percy Shelley, Byron, and Blake. This revaluation is in large part a consequence of the intervention into a predominantly masculine critical discourse of a generation of feminist scholars. Between 1974 and 1986, feminist criticism brought Frankenstein from the periphery to the center of critical and theoretical discussion and set the terms for debate.

Ellen Moers was the first feminist critic to offer a radically new reading of the novel. Her article on "Female Gothic" appeared in The New York Review of Books in 1974.5 Moers read the novel as a "birth myth" (LW 140), drawing on biographical information about Mary Shelley. For Moers, procreation is not only the subject of Frankenstein; it is the source of its peculiar horror. Again, she turns to Mary Shelley's life for an explanation:

She hurtled into teen-age motherhood without any of the financial or social or familial supports that made bearing and rearing children a relaxed experience . . . She was an unwed mother, responsible for breaking up a marriage of a young woman just as much a mother as she. The father whom she adored [William Godwin] broke furiously with her when she eloped; and Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother whose memory she revered, and whose books she was rereading throughout her teen-age years, had died in childbirth -- died giving birth to Mary herself. Surely no outside influence need be sought to explain Mary Shelley's fantasy of the newborn as at once monstrous agent of destruction and piteous victim of parental abandonment. (LW 148)
The next major contributions to feminist reproduction of knowledge about Frankenstein were Mark Rubenstein's "'My Accursed Origin': The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein," published in Studies in Romanticism in 1976, and a 1978 essay in Feminist Studies by Sandra Gilbert on "Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve," which was republished in 1979 as a chapter in Gilbert's and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic.6 Drawing, like Moers, on elements of Shelley's biography, Rubenstein emphasizes -- as Moers does not -- the intimate connection, in Shelley's imagination, between procreative sexuality and literary creation. Similarly, though endorsing Moers's emphasis on the novel's "sexual materials," her insistence that it is "despite its male protagonist . . . somehow a 'woman's book,'" Gilbert and Gubar also insist that "any theorist of the novel's femaleness and of its significance as a 'birth myth' must confront" its "self-conscious literariness" (MA 222). Agreeing with "traditional" critics like Harold Bloom, they see Frankenstein as "one of {812} the key Romantic 'readings' of Paradise Lost," but insist that it is "a woman's reading" (MA 221). Frankenstein "retells" Paradise Lost as "the fearful tale of a female fall from a lost paradise of art, speech, and autonomy into a hell of sexuality, silence, and filthy materiality" (MA 227). Like Rubenstein, in other words, Gilbert and Gubar supplement Moers's emphasis on the novel's "sexual materials" with a discussion of the intimate relationship in Shelley's life between procreation and creation, biological and literary reproduction.

In their chapter on Shelley, as in the whole of Madwoman, Gilbert and Gubar are primarily interested in the vicissitudes of female authorship in the nineteenth century. So is Mary Poovey, in the next major contribution to feminist criticism of Frankenstein.7 "My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism" was published in PMLA in 1980. Poovey sees in Frankenstein signs of its author's "pervasive personal and artistic ambivalence toward feminine self-assertion."8 Like Gilbert and Gubar, she emphasizes Shelley's sense of "kinship" with Frankenstein, whose "hideous progeny" makes him a type of the female artist (HP 343). "As Mary Shelley projects her imagination she sees a monster, a vivified corpse, capable of commanding sympathy but, in all its actions and despite its desire, destroying every living being it touches" (HP 344).

Barbara Johnson begins her 1982 essay on Frankenstein, "My Monster/ My Self," with the assertion that "three crucial questions can be seen to stand at the forefront of today's preoccupations: the question of mothering, the question of the woman writer, and the question of autobiography."9 Her reading of Frankenstein is intended to demonstrate that these questions are "profoundly interrelated" (MM 2). For Johnson, "the desire to create a being like oneself" is both "the autobiographical desire par excellence" and "the central transgression in Mary Shelley's novel," committed by Shelley as well as Frankenstein (MM 3; emphasis in orig.).

Mary Jacobus's "Is There a Woman in This Text?" appeared in New Literary History the same year that Johnson's "My Monster/My Self' was published in diacritics.10 While Johnson uses Frankenstein to demonstrate the "monstrosity" of female autobiography, Jacobus uses it to criticize Anglo-American feminist literary criticism, which grounds women's writing in women's experience. She uses feminist criticism of Frankenstein rather than the text itself to make her point: "To insist, for instance that Frankenstein reflects Mary Shelley's experience of the trauma of parturition and postpartum depression may tell us about women's lives, but it reduces the text itself to a monstrous symptom. Equally, to see it as the product of 'bibliogenesis' -- a feminist rereading of Paradise Lost that in exposing its misogynist politics, makes the monster's fall an image of {813} woman's fall into the hell of sexuality -- rewrites the novel in the image not of books but of female experience" (RW 108). Although pointedly critical of Moers and Gilbert and Gubar, Jacobus does not herself offer the "French" reading of Frankenstein she would prefer, one that would see "woman as a writing-effect" (RW 109).

Margaret Homans's discussion of Frankenstein in her 1986 Bearing the Word does achieve a French perspective on woman as "a position in language"11 but it also incorporates the "Anglo-American" analyses of Moers, Rubenstein, Gilbert and Gubar, and Poovey. Frankenstein illustrates Homans's general position that, in Western culture, entry into the symbolic requires the mother's absence so that figurative substitutes for her can be generated.

Homans presents the most complete version to date of the scholarly Establishment's understanding of what "feminists" make of Frankenstein. Building on the initial assertion by Ellen Moers that Frankenstein is, despite its male protagonist, a "woman's book" that encodes Shelley's acute anxieties about maternity, Marc Rubenstein and Sandra Gilbert added that there seemed to be, for Shelley, salient parallels between procreation and literary creation. Mary Poovey and Barbara Johnson emphasized artistic rather than biological creation, but both took as axiomatic the autobiographical foundation laid by Moers. Thus, by the time Mary Jacobus wanted to excoriate Anglo-American critical practice for its naïveté, relative to French feminist theory, there was a well established reading of Frankenstein available to illustrate her critique. All that remained was for Margaret Homans to recuperate the autobiographical, experiential elements of this reading by "translating" them into French.

This account of the gradual construction of a "feminist" reading of Frankenstein, while accurate in the main, has nevertheless elided what interests me most -- anxieties internal to the production of feminist knowledge. Before broaching this complex matter, however, I turn to the relatively simpler anxieties manifested by some male critics, writing about Frankenstein in the context of feminist readings of the text.

In "Frankenstein, Feminism, and the Intertextuality of Mountains," Fred V. Randel takes issue with Moers, Gilbert and Gubar, and Poovey to argue that the book is not a reflection of Shelley's ambivalence about maternity, feminine sexuality, and female authorship, but rather a powerful affirmation of female imaginative creativity. According to Randel, "Frankenstein's workshop is filthy and loathsome precisely because it is not a female space, while its configuration and generativity signify the femininity it has excluded."12 It is Shelley, not her protagonist, who "attain[s] a figuration of femaleness that radiates its own plenitude" in the novel's uterine narrative structure:

Concentric circles surround an interior substance, which depends upon them for transmission to the reader: the monster's segment is quoted by Frankenstein and his narration in turn is conveyed by Walton. On one level, this design is modelled upon the anatomical shape and physiological function of the uterus. Within its life-sustaining enclosure, the monster-offspring's novelistic life and unique worth are sustained, fostered, and transmitted; he is the foetus and the voice at its center . . . At the circles' center is not only the monster's narration but also the mountain peak where it is spoken. This configuration, which is modelled upon a vagina enclosing a penis, is an emblem of accomplished interaction between a female author and a male literary tradition . . . The power of the female imagination in Frankenstein is finally evidenced by its capacity to incorporate, equal, and complete a partial, sometimes immature, male tradition rather than by its power to repeat Frankenstein's self-isolation within a room and intellectual tradition reserved for a single sex. (531-32)
Under the guise of detecting and applauding Shelley's affirmation of female imaginative power, Randel has managed to return men to center stage. The "novelistic life" of Frankenstein is a male fetus, nurtured and brought to birth by a selflessly maternal Mary Shelley. In similar fashion an "immature" male literary tradition is stiffened into potency by the accommodating vagina of a mature (and of course heterosexual) woman.

Forcing female sexuality and procreativity to serve male desire and enforce heterosexuality is one way of alleviating the anxiety they provoke in men. Equally common is male appropriation of women's procreative abilities. Men's use of the childbirth metaphor to describe their production of art works has been documented and discussed extensively, most recently by Susan Stanford Friedman.13 As Friedman notes, underlying the male childbirth metaphor are the mind/body dualism and sexual division of labor that characterize Western patriarchal ideology: "Creation is the act of the mind that brings something new into existence. Procreation is the act of the body that reproduces the species. A man conceives an idea in his brain, while a woman conceives a baby in her womb . . . The pregnant body is necessarily female; the pregnant mind is the mental province of genius, most frequently understood to be inherently masculine" (75; emphasis in orig.). Paul Sherwin's "Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe" could serve as a textbook example of this patriarchal dynamic.

For Sherwin, the subject of Frankenstein is artistic creation, not procreation. Indeed, as he explicates the text, creativity is a male substitute for female procreativity. Sherwin disparages all autobiographical readings of the novel. He would not "deny that Mary Shelley, as mother and mourning mother, was ideally suited to preside over the account of Frankenstein's fearful literal creation." But to Shelley's {815} "empirical self" Sherwin opposes an "authorial self" that "has its own complex psychology, determined by its relations to the forms, images, and desires that compose the field of literature. That is to say, the authorial self, like the empirical self, is a living consciousness, not so much disembodied as differently embodied."14 In other words, the authorial self -- unlike the empirical self -- is a brainchild, the creation of the male critic's fecund imagination. By implication, feminists like Moers remain mired in the autobiographical corpus. Sherwin's essay sets up a binary opposition between uterus and mind, the labor of childbirth and the "labor that constitutes authorship" (899), empirical and authorial selves, in which the second, male term is always preferred. Whereas Randel takes issue with feminist critics, Sherwin simply dismisses them.

William Veeder's relationship to feminist criticism of Frankenstein and to feminist theory in general is more difficult to describe. Veeder's Mary Shelley and Frankenstein: The Fate of Androgyny (1986) is one of the few recent full-length studies of the novel. In the same year; Veeder published chapter five as an article in Critical Inquiry, "The Negative Oedipus: Father, Frankenstein, and the Shelleys." As a free-standing article, detached from Veeder's overall thesis and its grounding in feminist theory, "The Negative Oedipus" seems almost aggressively antifeminist. The article begins with the chapter's third paragraph: "Defining the role of father in Mary Shelley has been both fostered and impeded by recent criticism. Feminist theory with its recognition of the importance of mother has prevented any overrating of father . . . Feminist readings can, however, go too far in this direction. Mother can achieve such prominence that father is cast into shadow."15 As an opening gambit rather than just another link in developing a book-length argument, this paragraph has the effect of establishing Veeder's distance from (and implicit criticism of) feminist mothering theory. Having rejected feminists' emphasis on the pre-oedipal period in the article's first paragraph, Veeder seems in the next to move further to supplant mother with father by proposing an alternative to the traditional psychoanalytic emphasis on the oedipal period. In the oedipal model, the son wants to murder father to gain access to mother; according to Veeder's "negative" oedipal paradigm (derived, a note tells us, from chapter three of Freud's The Ego and the Id), the son desires to murder mother in order to get to father" (366; emphasis in orig.).

In the context of a book that relies on and enters frequently into dialogue with feminist scholarship, Veeder's belief that Shelley was more "oriented" to her father than to her mother registers merely as a difference of opinion with feminist colleagues.16 But by publishing "The Negative Oedipus" as a freestanding article, Veeder seems tendentiously determined to replace mother with father, Oedipus (and pre-Oedipus) {816} with negative Oedipus, in order sharply to distinguish his theoretical position from that of feminist scholars.


Male anxiety about female procreative power certainly antedates the efflorescence of feminist literary criticism in the last twenty years. Indeed, according to many, it originated in prehistory. Recent criticism of Frankenstein by some male scholars, however, manifests a peculiarly contemporary version of this long-standing anxiety because it uses the familiar tropes registering disquiet with female procreative power to express anxiety about feminist appropriation of the traditionally male authority to create knowledge. What looks to territorially anxious males like a unified invading army is, in fact, as any feminist scholar can attest a loose coalition of independent thinkers, bound together for political reasons and for survival's sake. It may even be, as Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller propose in their collection of essays entitled Conflicts in Feminism, that "struggle and conflict" are the "salient marks" of contemporary academic feminism.l7 The "feminist" reading of Frankenstein, which male critics like Randel, Sherwin, and Veeder apparently regard as monolithic, is marked by struggle and conflict of a particular kind that Hirsch and Keller might characterize as "generational" (365). It manifests anxieties internal to the production of feminist knowledge. In large part, as I hope to show, these anxieties are both materially based and historically specific.

To illustrate this feminist anxiety, I return to Gilbert and Gubar. Although what is now the Mary Shelley chapter in The Madwoman in the Attic appeared originally as an essay in Feminist Studies, I discuss the Madwoman version for two reasons. First, The Madwoman in the Attic played a major role in the production of feminist knowledge about nineteenth-century women's literature and literary history. Published by a major university press, widely reviewed in both feminist and mainstream media, it inspired numerous derivative "second-generation" critical readings as well as the inevitable rebellion of younger critics chafing under its magisterial authority. Second, embedded in the theoretical matrix of the book, the essay on Frankenstein provokes questions about the production of knowledge not apparent when it is read as a free-standing article.

As I noted in my rapid survey of major feminist essays on Frankenstein Mary Jacobus criticized Gilbert and Gubar for the same reason that she faulted Ellen Moers, for reducing textuality to sexuality. Indeed, there are many points of similarity between Moers's essay and Gilbert's and {817} Gubar's. Both base their analyses of Frankenstein on biographical data, the particulars of Shelley's sexual, domestic, and procreative experience. Furthermore, both emphasize the text's depiction of sexuality and procreativity as monstrous, in language that recalls a certain ("Beauvoirian") strain of feminist discourse. Moers detects in the novel a "motif of revulsion against newborn life" (LW 142) and notes that "birth is a hideous thing in Frankenstein, even before there is a monster" (LW 145). Gilbert and Gubar refer repeatedly to a "fall into gender" (MA 225), a fall "from a lost paradise of art, speech, and autonomy into a hell of sexuality, silence, and filthy materiality" (MA 227). But Gilbert and Gubar do not emphasize the similarities between their and Moers's readings. Rather, they set up a sharp contrast between "critics like Moers" and "traditional [nonfeminist] critics" in order to deconstruct what they have themselves constructed as a binary opposition between "biological" and "literary" readings of the novel.

Gilbert and Gubar misrepresent Moers, their critical predecessor: they downplay the marked affinities between their and Moers's attention to biographical/biological data. "That writers assimilate and then consciously or unconsciously affirm or deny the achievements of their predecessors is, of course, a central fact of literary history," Gilbert and Gubar remark; the same might be said of critics (MA 46). But if, as they also assert, "poets have traditionally used a vocabulary derived from the patriarchal 'family romance' to describe their relations with each other," it is equally the case that texts that reproduce knowledge often unconsciously reproduce family tensions and rivalries. In their reading of Frankenstein, are Gilbert and Gubar guilty of matrophobia?

Near the end of their extended intertextual reading of Frankenstein and Paradise Lost, Gilbert and Gubar discuss the "motherlessness" of both Eve and the monster, speculating that it "must have had extraordinary cultural and personal significance for Mary Shelley," not only because her mother died giving birth to her but because -- quoting Virginia Woolf -- "We think back through our mothers if we are women" (MA 243). One of the points Gilbert and Gubar stress throughout Madwoman is that, until relatively recently, women writers had no female literary precedents, no literary "mothers." Whether or not this is an accurate description of literary history is not my concern here. Rather, I wish to suggest that Madwoman is a motherless text. Moreover, it is so not because there are no "maternal" precedents for Gilbert's and Gubar's literary historical project, but because -- Virginia Woolf notwithstanding -- they do not think back through their mothers but through their fathers.

From the (in)famous first sentence of Madwoman ("Is a pen a metaphorical penis?"), Gilbert and Gubar depict literary history in {818} procreative terms, as a drama characterized by all-potent fathers and absent mothers. To demonstrate the pervasiveness in Western literary civilization of the paternal metaphor, they quote Edward Said's meditation on the word "authority" from Beginnings (MA 2). For the fullest prior elaboration of the patriarchal dynamic of Western literary history, they cite Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence (MA 6). And when they construct their own theoretical model of women's literary history, it is a variant of Bloom's (MA 46-53).

Gilbert and Gubar acknowledge that "Bloom's model of literary history is intensely (even exclusively) male, and necessarily patriarchal" (MA 47), since it describes the "sequential historical relationship between literary artists" as "the relationship of father and son, specifically that relationship as it was defined by Freud" (MA 46-47). In answer to the question, "where does a woman writer 'fit in' to the overwhelmingly and essentially male literary history Bloom describes?," they answer that "a woman writer does not 'fit in"' (MA 48; emphasis in orig.). Why then do they base their own theory about women's "anxiety of authorship" (the "radical fear that she cannot create" [MA 49]) on Bloom's oedipal model?

Their answer is that Bloom's paradigm "can help us distinguish the anxieties and achievements of female writers from those of male writers" because women writers perforce live and write (or do not write, as the case may be) in a patriarchal literary culture that equates pens and penises (MA 48). This, of course, brings us back to the first sentence of Madwoman and Said's meditation on authority as paternity.

But what of that other equally pervasive procreative metaphor, unforgettably described and illustrated by Mary Ellmann in Thinking About Women, that of a "male uterus-mind,"18 a metaphor that gives rise to what Ellmann terms "the intellectual equivalent of the couvade, the imagined motherhood of the male" (17)? Gilbert and Gubar cite Stephen Dedalus on the "mystical estate" of paternity (MA 5); Ellmann quotes his "O! In the virgin womb of the imagination the word was made flesh" (TW 16). If Joyce employed both paternal and maternal procreative metaphors to describe the act of literary creation, why do Gilbert and Gubar privilege the paternal? Why do they ignore "that vast body of comparisons" between men's minds and wombs Ellmann adduces, from Richard Lovelace to Honoré Balzac, Andrei Vozneshensky to Bernard Malamud (TW 16-17)? It cannot be because they have not read Ellmann: they quote her in Madwoman (albeit only twice in the book's 719 pages). Judging by the index, they are equally indebted to Harold Bloom and Ellen Moers (eleven and twelve citations, respectively). But while Bloom is valorized, all the allusions to Moers are similar to those I have discussed in the Frankenstein chapter; her unique contributions to {819} scholarship -- whether her insight that Shelley's text is centrally concerned with procreation or her larger generalizations about genre ("the female Gothic") or literary history ("heroinism") -- are misrepresented in ways that emphasize the originality of Gilbert's and Gubar's ideas.

In The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, and Kabbalah and Criticism, Harold Bloom describes the relation of critics to prior critics, as well as poets to precursor poets, as a generational struggle. Critics, like poets, "misread" or "swerve" from their precursors in order to establish their own critical maturity. Paradoxically, this establishes the absolute stature of the prior poet/critic: "A poet is strong because poets after him must work to evade him. A critic is strong if his readings similarly provoke other readings."19 Gilbert and Gubar do not "misread" Moers in this Bloomian sense. For example, they do not alter her concept of "heroinism"; they just ignore it.

It is not Moers but Bloom whom Gilbert and Gubar "misread"; it is his "anxiety of influence" that they appropriate, and alter, for their own purposes. As Carey Kaplan and I point out in The Canon and the Common Reader, this creative misprision signaled Gilbert's and Gubar's theoretical coming-of-age; it would be virtually unthinkable for a critic now to invoke "the anxiety of influence" without mentioning both Bloom's male and Gilbert's and Gubar's female paradigms.20 It is also true that Madwoman may have introduced Bloom's ideas to some readers previously unfamiliar with them; in any event, Harold Bloom's "strength" as a critic is affirmed by his ability to "provoke" Gilbert's and Gubar's misreading.

I have discussed Madwoman at such length because Gilbert and Gubar provide so clear an example of the retreat from the maternal body that characterizes feminist criticism of Frankenstein. In the genealogy I have laid out -- Moers to Rubenstein to Gilbert and Gubar to Poovey to Johnson to Jacobus to Homans -- there is a clear and systematic movement from the literal toward the figurative, from the material maternal body to the paternal symbolic order. Of the major feminist critics of Frankenstein I have discussed, only Gilbert and Gubar embed their discussion of the novel in a theoretical context derived solely from a male progenitor. But even Homans, who augments Jacques Lacan with Nancy Chodorow in constructing her psychoanalytically based theoretical model, deemphasizes the biographical, biological, bodily elements of Frankenstein in order to focus on what it says about the body's inscription in language and culture.

Because her interpretation of the novel emphasizes biological reproduction, repudiation of Ellen Moers is one way for feminists to distance themselves from the maternal body. For example, Gilbert and Gubar say Moers's emphasis on Shelley's sexual and procreative history tends "to {820} evade the problems posed by what we must define as Frankenstein's literariness" (MA 222); Poovey finds "her equation of the monster and the newborn too limiting" (HP 347, n. 12); Johnson relegates her to a footnote as an example of critics who "have begun to see Victor Frankenstein's disgust at the sight of his creation as a study of postpartum depression, as a representation of maternal rejection of a newborn infant, and to relate the entire novel to Mary Shelley's mixed feelings about motherhood" (MM 6); Jacobus accuses her of reducing the text to a "monstrous symptom" (RW 108); and Homans says her reading of the novel as a birth myth "seems unduly influenced by the superimpositions of the introduction," which" supplies the most explicit evidence for identifying demon and book with a child" (BW113).

In order to understand why, between 1976 to 1986, feminist criticism of Frankenstein criticism staged a retreat from the maternal body to the paternal symbolic, it might be useful to begin by noting that Ellen Moers thought that prior critics had not noticed, as she had, the birth material in Frankenstein because "the harum scarum circumstances surrounding [Shelley's] maternity have no parallel until our time" (LW 147). In other words, the procreative situation of middle-class American women in the 1970s, illuminated by feminist consciousness, made one particular coded meaning of Shelley's novel accessible, relevant, and insistent. Feminist (re)production of knowledge about Frankenstein was initiated at a moment in American history when biological reproduction had become problematic for many women. And the subsequent history of feminist Frankenstein criticism in the 1980s was shaped at least in part by changes in women's attitudes toward their procreative capacities, in response to alterations in the political and social climate of the United States over the past twenty years.

In the preface to Literary Women, Moers acknowledges that her book was profoundly affected by "the dramatically unfolding" events of the period of its writing, the late 60s and early 70s, when a "new wave of feminism, called women's liberation, pulled me out of the stacks" (LW xvi). Moers's reading of Frankenstein occurred in the context of feminists' demands for women's right to control their reproductive destiny, of Simone de Beauvoir's negative portrayal of maternity (it imprisons women "in repetition and immanence"),21 and Shulamith Firestone's blunter verdict that "pregnancy is barbaric" and "childbirth hurts" ("like shitting a pumpkin").22 This context may account for Moers's opinion that Shelley's book is "most feminine" in its "motif of revulsion against newborn life, and the drama of guilt, dread, and flight surrounding birth and its consequences" (LW 142).

In The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, Betty Friedan had depicted motherhood and domesticity as a large part of "the problem {821} that has no name." With the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960 and the legalization of abortion in 1973, many middle-class American women welcomed the opportunity to separate heterosexual activity from procreation and thus, it was thought, gain both autonomy and true equality with men. Hence Shulamith Firestone's enthusiastic endorsement of artificial reproduction. Hence utopias like Marge Piercy's Mattapoisett (in her 1976 Woman on the Edge of Time), where babies are made from stored "genetic material" in a mechanical "brooder" and "co-mothered" by three persons, at least one of whom is male. In a passage that might have been (but was not) lifted verbatim from Firestone's chapter on "the ultimate revolution," Piercy's Luciente explains to the skeptical Connie Ramos that this alternative mode of reproduction is an essential "part of women's long revolution": "Finally there was that one thing we had to give up too, the only power we ever had, in return for no more power for anyone. The original production: the power to give birth. Cause as long as we were biologically enchained, we'd never be equal. And males never would be humanized to be loving and tender. So we all became mothers."23 If the women of Mattapoisett were willing to give up biological motherhood in exchange for equality between the sexes, many American feminist literary scholars in the late 70s and early 80s (including some represented in my survey of Frankenstein criticism) achieved a measure of institutional parity with men by adopting the then-fashionable discourse of deconstruction, in which "the feminine" and "woman" are theoretical constructs or positions in language, only tenuously related to living female subjects.

By the mid-80s, however, though some (mostly middle-class, mostly white) American women had risen to positions of responsibility and prestige, "equality" had not been achieved. Indeed, certain gains that had seemed permanently secured by the mid-70s had been ominously eroded. Beginning with the passage in 1977 of the Hyde amendment prohibiting Medicaid funding for abortions, women's unimpeded access to safe, legal abortions -- seemingly guaranteed as a constitutional right by the Supreme Court in 1973 -- were repeatedly and successfully curtailed. No pharmaceutical company developed a male contraceptive as an alternative to the birth control pill, which has serious side effects for many women. And feminists in the 80s seemed much less confident than Shulamith Firestone had been in 1970 that current reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, and techniques for sex (pre)determination, not to mention still experimental technologies enabling cloning and the creation of artificial placentas, would be used to advance the interests of women and children and demolish patriarchy.

Gena Corea, Renate Duelli Klein, Rita Arditti, Jalna Hanmer, Robyn {822} Rowland, and Janice Raymond -- to name only the most outspoken radical feminists opposed to reproductive technologies -- see them as a sinister male plot to render women obsolescent and expendable.24 "Dubious though it has been in real terms," the power of giving birth has been throughout history for many women "the only experience of power they will ever have":

And men have coveted that last of powers. Men's myths have continuously expressed their fear, awe, and envy of it, and they have repeatedly tried to control it. They renounced the midwives and made a profession out of studying women's bodies; they frequently express their anger, resentment, and hatred of women through violence against our bodies; they have controlled and regulated our choice with respect to our bodies, controlling contraception, controlling abortion. Now, with the possibilities offered by technology they are storming the last bastion and taking control of conception, foetal development, and birth.25
Even liberal and socialist feminists, who charge radical feminists with biologizing, essentializing, and universalizing "woman," caution wariness and skepticism toward the new technologies. While acknowledging that declining infant and maternal morality rates may owe something to developments in technologies for intervening in reproduction, Michelle Stanworth says that "the view that reproductive technologies have given women control over motherhood -- and thereby over their own lives -- simply will not do":26 "Medical and scientific advances in the sphere of reproduction -- so often hailed as the liberators of twentieth-century women -- have, in fact, been a double-edged sword. On the one hand they have offered women a greater technical possibility to decide if, when and under what conditions to have children; on the other, the domination of so much reproductive technology by the medical profession and by the state has enabled others to have an even greater capacity to exert control over women's lives" (15-16). Additionally, since access to these technologies is not equally available to all women, for some "motherhood remains their only chance of creativity, while economic and social circumstances compel others to relinquish motherhood altogether" (16).

Other developments during the 1980s fostered revaluations of both technology and motherhood, among them a growing awareness of the irreparable damage to the ecosystem we have caused by indiscriminate development of industrial technologies, real and imagined effects of an increasingly toxic environment on fertility, and in the United States and Europe, a resurgence of pronatalist ideology in the wake of conservative political victories. Read both as evidence of a concerted "backlash" against feminism and as signaling "postfeminist" retreat from the {823} demands women voiced so loudly in the late 60s and early 70s, films like Baby Boom, popular television series like thirtysomething, and novels like The Good Mother extolled heterosexual monogamy, the nuclear family, and motherhood, relentlessly punishing women who seek professional success and sexual pleasure for its own sake.27

In view of these developments, two recent discussions of Shelley's novel merit examination, as corroborating the hypothesis that American feminist criticism of Frankenstein, at least since the mid-1970s, encodes changing anxieties about biological procreation even as it (re)produces knowledge about the text.

Alan Bewell's "An Issue of Monstrous Desire: Frankenstein and Obstetrics" appeared in the 1988 Yale Journal of Criticism. In the spirit of new historicism (invoking the prior example of Mary Poovey), Bewell seeks to amend earlier "ahistorical and abstract" biographical interpretations of Frankenstein, such as Ellen Moers's and Barbara Johnson's, "that leave unclear, except as analogy, the connection between biology and writing, monstrous texts and monstrous babies, Mary Shelley as pregnant woman and as female author."28 A historicized consideration of these relationships, Bewell argues, should lead to the recognition that "Mary Shelley's experience of pregnancy was not simply a biological matter, but also a social and discursive event, which made her familiar, in ways that critics have not been, with the language of obstetrics." Whereas Moers "takes the presence of this language in Frankenstein as a sign that the novel is autobiographical," Bewell makes the more daring claim "that it represents Mary Shelley's deliberate attempt to introduce an ambiguously female-based theory of creation into the Romantic discourse on the imagination."20

The eighteenth-century obstetrical theory Shelley relied on emphasized "the power of a pregnant woman's imagination and desires to mark or deform a developing fetus" (109; my emphasis). And, as Bewell describes the detailed regimes prescribed in midwifery manuals for disciplining the maternal imagination (not only, as today, recommendations about what the pregnant woman should eat and drink, but what recreations -- wearing what clothes, and in whose company -- she might safely pursue), it would seem "difficult" indeed "to think of a more androcentric discourse, one more interested in the control of women's bodies and minds" (114). But in fact, female as well as male midwives circulated this discourse, which disappeared at the end of the eighteenth-century because male midwives "made it disappear" (115). Why would pregnant women and female midwives promote a theory that resulted in severe regulation of women's behavior during pregnancy? Perhaps, Bewell suggests, because the need for such strenuous control merely confirmed the power of female sexuality: "From this perspective, {824} the rejection of this obstetric theory by the end of the eighteenth-century may have been an advance for science, but it also significantly diminished the sexual power of women, already eroded by the medical assertion that there was no link between conception and desire . . . No wonder," Bewell concludes, "that even though these ideas lost their medical authority, they remained popular among women through the nineteenth century" (116).

The most striking feature of Bewell's intricate, fascinating, and persuasively developed thesis is the way it continually returns to the female body as the ground and source of a theory of representation. While not disputing Bewell's claim that in emphasizing the (maternal) embodiment of Mary Shelley's theory of representation he is historicizing discussion of Frankenstein, I think it is noteworthy that his essay was written and published at the historical moment when a number of feminists were affirming woman's "unique" power to reproduce the species in language that would have outraged feminists twenty years ago.

Mary Shelley's deployment in Frankenstein of already obsolescent obstetric theory -- which Bewell meticulously itemizes -- is simultaneously an affirmation of the power of female sexuality and a critique of science. Anne K. Mellor discusses Frankenstein as Shelley's "feminist critique of science" in chapter five of her 1988 book, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. Drawing extensively on prior studies of the seventeenth-century origins of modern science by Brian Easlea, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Carolyn Merchant,30 she notes that Professor Waldman's claim in Frankenstein that science could "penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding-places"31 is strikingly similar to language used by the most distinguished scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: "Isaac Barrow, Newton's teacher declared that the aim of the new philosophy was to 'search Nature out of her Concealments, and unfold her dark Mysteries,' while Robert Boyle noted contemptuously that 'some men care only to know Nature, others desire to command her.' Henry Oldenburg, a future Secretary of the Royal Society, invoked Bacon to support his assertion that the 'true sons of learning' are those men who do not remain satisfied with the well-known truths but rather 'penetrate from Nature's antechamber to her inner closet'" (111). Mellor concurs with Easlea, Keller, and Merchant in concluding that "many seventeenth-century natural philosophers and their successors viewed the scientific quest as a virile masculine penetration into a passive female nature, a penetration that would, in Bacon's words, not merely exert a 'gentle guidance over nature's course' but rather 'conquer and subdue her' and even 'shake her to her foundations'" (111).

{825} That this is not only gendered but (violently) sexualized discourse is underscored by the contemporary environmentalist cliché that "man" has perpetrated a "rape" of nature. But Victor Frankenstein, as Mellor points out, does not want even metaphorically to engage in sexual intercourse (he repeatedly postpones and then seems remarkably reluctant to consummate his marriage). Rather, "he has 'pursued nature to her hiding places' in an attempt not only to penetrate nature and show how her hidden womb works but actually to steal or appropriate that womb" (112, quoting Frankenstein, 98).

Mellor's claim that in Frankenstein Shelley "illustrated the potential evils of scientific hubris and at the same time challenged the cultural biases inherent in any conception of science and the scientific method that rested on a gendered definition of nature as female" (89) is so plausibly demonstrated that one can only wonder why -- especially since Carolyn Merchant articulated a feminist critique of Baconian science as early as 1980 -- it didn't occur to any feminist critic before Mellor to read Frankenstein from this perspective.32 The answer may lie in the chapter of Mellor's book that directly follows the one in which she discusses Frankenstein as Shelley's "feminist critique of science." Chapter six of Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters is entitled "Usurping the Female" and in it Mellor claims that one of the "deepest horrors" of Shelley's novel is the specter of a world without women, which Frankenstein's successful effort to create human life would enable: "By stealing the female's control over reproduction, Frankenstein has eliminated the female's primary biological function and source of cultural power" (115). "At every level," she continues, "Victor Frankenstein is engaged upon a rape of nature, a violent penetration and usurpation of the female's 'hiding place,' of the womb. Terrified of female sexuality and the power of human reproduction it enables, both he and the patriarchal society he represents use the technologies of science and the laws of the polis to manipulate, control, and repress women" (122). Mellor's language, and her singling out male usurpation of women's reproductive powers as the "deepest horror" of Shelley's novel, echoes the discourse of radical feminist opponents of contemporary reproductive technologies I quoted earlier.


I began this essay asserting that literary criticism, no less than the texts it examines, reflects unfolding cultural and historical preoccupations and anxieties. As we have seen, from the mid-1970s to the end of the {826} 1980s, feminist criticism of Frankenstein assumed a shape that followed closely the contours of evolving feminist analyses of women's relationship to biological procreation. When feminist philosophers and popular writers alike saw motherhood as an impediment to women's achievement of independence, agency, and even full humanity, it was glaringly evident to feminist critics that Frankenstein registered a woman's highly ambivalent feelings about maternity. As (some) women gained access to technologies that enabled them to separate sexual activity from procreation, they ceased to regard biology as destiny. During these years -- roughly from the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 to the mid-1980s, when radical feminist skepticism about the benefits to women of reproductive technologies began to percolate through the general public's consciousness -- feminist critics increasingly distanced themselves from earlier autobiographical readings of Shelley's novel as they strove to display their mastery of the poststructuralist critical discourse that was current in the (still largely male- dominated) academy. When, for a constellation of reasons ranging from environmental to cultural, fertility and procreativity were revalued by (some) women as precious assets rather than impediments to full personhood, feminist critics began to revisit what Ellen Moers called in 1974 the "birth materials" in Frankenstein, this time to affirm the links between female sexuality and procreation and to criticize (male) science for attempting to usurp uniquely female powers.

What will the cultural critic of the twenty-first century make of the appearance in the 1990s of a new thematic focus in feminist criticism of Frankenstein? In 1993, essays were published in two influential journals arguing that Frankenstein is neither a "birth myth" nor the portrait of "a Promethean usurper 'engaged upon a rape of nature.'"33 Rather, according to Colleen Hobbs, Shelley's novel "invites us to look for problems in the cultural orthodoxy of masculinity" (RS 156). Similarly, Bette London proposes that the novel "challenge[s] the pieties of masculinity."34

In "Reading the Symptoms: An Exploration of Repression and Hysteria in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Colleen Hobbs maintains that in the Frankenstein household, emotional roles were strictly gendered: the patriarch, Alphonse, urged strict self-control on his son while allowing, even encouraging, expressions of sentiment from Elizabeth. Denied domestic expression, Victor Frankenstein's "passion is directed toward his work" (RS 158), with monstrous, indeed disastrous, consequences. But, according to Hobbs, although he internalizes his father's ethos of masculine control, "after the creation of the monster and the crisis it precipitates, Victor no longer can meet these rigid demands . . . The rejection of his disappointing but powerful offspring unleashes a truth {827} about the denial of human feeling that sheer masculine repression can no longer control" (RS 159), and he manifests symptoms and episodes of hysteria "that reveal the frailty of his gendered construction" (RS 164). By attributing "a classically female malady to a male character," Hobbs argues, Shelley "produces a site where orthodox gender stereotypes are revealed as inadequate, dangerous constructions" (RS 153).

In Bette London's reading, Frankenstein goes even further in problematizing masculinity than Colleen Hobbs proposes. "Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity" begins by describing a memorial sculpture by Henry Weekes that represents the Shelleys in the image of Michaelangelo's Pietà, in which a grieving woman supports the outstretched body of a lifeless man. This image "reactivate[s] Frankenstein's own iconography," recalling its central scenes -- the monster's animation, Elizabeth's murder, and Frankenstein's death. In these scenes, the identities and genders of the mourner and the dead body shift: the unanimated body of the monster, the lifeless body of Elizabeth on her marriage bed, and the dead body of Frankenstein are all isomorphic with the recumbent figure of Percy Shelley in the memorial sculpture. "This pattern," London writes: "has far-reaching . . . implications for an understanding both of the novel and of the wider workings of gender implications that exceed the narrow determinants of a strictly biographical rendering. For the shifting configurations that mark the novel's reinventions of its central scene destabilize the novel's meaning, making the male body the site of an ineradicable materiality" (255; emphasis in orig.).

In London's view, feminist critics who approach the novel via Mary Shelley's biography and see both Frankenstein and the monster as displaced representations of female identity "cover over Frankenstein's investments in male exhibitionism, thus supporting, however inadvertently, dominant ideological imperatives" dictating that "the traditional locus for 'the monstrous' and 'the body' is femininity" (256). Shelley's great accomplishment, in Frankenstein, is to reveal what the dominant discourse suppresses, (the problem of) male sexuality.

This new strain in feminist criticism of Frankenstein, which sees it as a critique of masculinity rather than an expression of either distorted female desire or anxieties about biological reproduction, coincides with a renewed concern with masculinity in both the public sphere and the academy. In the academy, courses and books on the new field of "men's studies" began appearing at the end of the 1980s,35 and a number of Women's Studies programs renamed themselves Gender Studies. Although some feminists feared that these moves signaled a return to the status quo ante Women's Studies ("what is the traditional curriculum if not 'men's studies?'"), most were heartened that men and masculinity {828} were being problematized rather than continuing, as in the traditional curriculum, to constitute the unmarked norm against which "others" are differentiated.

Meanwhile, in 1990, Robert Bly published Iron John, a "mythopoetic" solution to what he perceived as a crisis in masculinity.36 While practitioners of men's studies welcomed the "challenge of feminism" (BP xiii) to examine the relationship between individual men and social structures of male domination, Bly lamented that the feminist movement of the late 60s and early 70s had made men "soft." "They're lovely, valuable people," Bly writes; "they're not interested in harming the earth or starting wars . . . But many of these men are not happy. You quickly notice the lack of energy in them. They are life-preserving but not exactly life-giving" (IJ 2-3). Soft men's problems are caused by "strong women" (IJ 83); what they need is male initiators: "Women can change the embryo to a boy, but only men can change the boy to a man" (IJ 16). If properly initiated, a man will discover, "lying at the bottom of his psyche, a large, primitive being covered with hair down to his feet. Making contact with this Wild Man is the step the Eighties male or the Nineties male has yet to take" (IJ 86).

Iron John was on the New York Times bestseller list for sixty-two weeks followed by thirteen weeks on the paperback bestseller list. Esquire made Bly the subject of a cover story and Bill Moyers interviewed him on PBS. In an article titled "Masculinity's Champion" in US News and World Report, Art Levine observed that though "many scoffed when poet Robert Bly's mythology for men began climbing the bestseller list . . . His endurance suggests he's striking a chord.37 If Levine's statement that Iron John is "the only self-exploration volume for men ever to reach bestseller status" (62) is accurate, it would seem that many American men agreed with Bly that manhood was under duress.38

Other Americans perceived the "crisis in masculinity" differently. Even as Bly was leading workshops for would-be "wild men," judges and lawmakers were grappling with an upsurge in (reported) violence against women, issuing restraining orders and drafting anti-stalking legislation in response.30 A 1990 study by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that while violent crime against men decreased about twenty percent from 1973 to 1987, during the same period violence against women remained constant.40 "But," the statistician who wrote the report explained to a New York Times reporter, "the main lesson of the study is that violent crime against women is different than crime against men because it's six times as likely to be committed by their intimates."40 Domestic violence, in particular, gained the media's attention in the 90s. "American women have far more to fear from the men they know and once loved than from any stranger on the street," {829} wrote columnist Jane E. Brody: "Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury and death to American women, causing more harm than vehicular accidents, rapes and mugging combined. Each year an estimated six million women are beaten by the men they live with, and 30 percent of women who become homicide victims die at the hands of men with whom they have a 'family' relationship."42 In 1990, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden introduced into the Senate a Violence Against Women Act, which is now part of the crime bill passed by the House of Representatives in August, 1994.

When Lorena Bobbitt reacted to being repeatedly beaten, raped, and sodomized by her husband by cutting off his penis, the act symbolized the conflicting but equally intensifying fears of many American women that men are out to kill them and of some American men that women are out to emasculate them. It is not surprising that, in such a climate, feminist criticism of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein should find masculinity singularly interesting.


1. Peter Humm, Paul Stigant, and Peter Widdowson, "Introduction," Popular Fictions: Essays in Literature and History, ed. Peter Humm, Paul Stigant, and Peter Widdowson (London, 1986) p. 6.

2. Paul O'Flinn,Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein," in Popular Fictions, "p. 196; hereafter cited in text.

3. The one exception is Gilbert and Gubar's essay. The Madwoman version is invariably cited rather than the earlier article in Feminist Studies. (For citations, see n. 6 below.) Articles from specialized feminist or women's studies journals seldom influence mainstream discourse about a subject.

4. Harold Bloom, "Afterword" to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (New York, 1965), p. 215. Bloom's essay was originally published as "Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus," Partisan Review, 32 (1965), 611-18.

5. Three years later it reappeared as a chapter in Ellen Moers, Literary Women: The Great Writers (New York, 1977), hereafter cited in text as LW; and in 1979 it was reprinted in George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher, The Endurance of Frankenstein (Berkeley, 1979), pp. 77-87.

6. See Marc Rubenstein, "'My Accursed Origin': The Search for the Mother in Frankenstein," Studies in Romanticism, 15 (1976), 165-94; Sandra M. Gilbert, "Horror's Twin: Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve," Feminist Studies, 4 (1978), 48-73; and Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven, 1979); hereafter cited in text as MA.

7. In addition to reprinting Ellen Moers's "Female Gothic" in their 1979 collection, The Endurance of Frankenstein, George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher included two other feminist essays, Kate Ellis's analysis of the novel as a critique of the bourgeois family and separate spheres ideology and Knoepflmacher's exploration of the thesis that Frankenstein "resurrects and rearranges an adolescent's conflicting emotions about her relation both to {830} the dead mother she idealized and mourned and to the living, 'sententious and authoritative' father-philosopher she admired and deeply resented." Though frequently cited by subsequent feminist critics, neither Ellis nor Knoepflmacher elaborate or modify (though both cite) Moers, nor do many subsequent critics build on their arguments. See Kate Ellis, "Monsters in the Garden," and U. C. Knoepflmacher, "Thoughts on the Aggression of Daughters," in The Endurance of Frankenstein pp. 123-42 and 88-ll9 respectively. The quotation from Knoepflmacher cited above is from p. 91.

8. Mary Poovey, "My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism," PMLA, 95 (1980), 332; hereafter cited in text as HP.

9. Barbara Johnson, "My Monster/My Self", diacritics, 12 (1982), 2; hereafter cited in text as MM.

10. Mary Jacobus, "Is There a Woman in This Text?" New Literary History,14 (1982), 117-42; this was republished in Mary Jacobus, Reading Woman: Essays in Feminist Criticism (New York, 1986), pp. 83-109; hereafter cited in text as RW.

11. Margaret Homans, Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women's Writing (Chicago, 1986), p. xii; hereafter cited in text as BW.

12. Fred V. Randel, "Frankenstein, Feminism, and the Intertextuality of Mountains," Studies in Romanticism, 24 (1985), 531; hereafter cited in text.

13. See Susan Stanford Friedman, "Creativity and the Childbirth Metaphor: Gender-Difference in Literary Discourse," in Speaking of Gender, ed. Elaine Showalter (New York 1989), pp. 73100; hereafter cited in text. Friedman's notes contain references to prior discussions of male childbirth metaphors. See esp. p. 94, n. 1.

14. Paul Sherwin, "Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe," PMLA, 96 (1981), 899 (emphasis in orig.); hereafter cited in text.

15. William Veeder, "The Negative Oedipus: Father, Frankenstein, and the Shelleys," Critical Inquiry, 12 (1986), 365 (emphasis in orig.); hereafter cited in text.

16. As my survey of major feminist essays on Frankenstein revealed, feminist critics are by no means agreed on so crucial a question as whether Frankenstein occupies a female or male subject position.

17. Conflicts in Feminism, ed. Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller (New York, 1990) p. 1; hereafter cited in text.

18. Mary Ellmann, Thinking about Women (New York, I968), p. 16; hereafter cited in text.

19. Harold Bloom, Kabbalah and Criticism (New York, 1975), p. 125.

20. Carey Kaplan and Ellen Cronan Rose, The Canon and the Common Reader (Knoxville, 1990), p. 152.

21. Simone de Beauvoir, The.Second Sex, tr. H. M. Parshley (New York, 1961), pp. 57-58.

22. Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, rev. ed. (New York, 1971), pp. 198-99, emphasis in the original.

23. Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (New York, 1976), p. 105.

24. See, for example, Test-Tube Women: What Future for Motherhood?, ed. Rita Arditti, Renate Duelli Klein, and Shelley Minden (London, 1984); Gena Corea, The Mother Machine Reproductive Technologies from Artificial Insemination to Artificial Wombs (New York, 1985); Man-Made Women: How New Reproductive Technologies Affect Women, ed. Gena Corea and Renate Duelli Klein (London, 1985); Made to Order: The Myth of Reproductive and Genetic Progress, ed. Deborah Lynn Steinberg and Patricia Spallone (Oxford, 1987), and the journal Reproductive and Genetic Engineering. As the preceding survey of American Frankenstein criticism from 1976 to 1986 suggests, the procreativity women are willing to sacrifice, men may eagerly reconstitute and claim as their own.

25. Robyn Rowland, "Reproductive Technologies: The Final Solution to the Woman Question?" in Test-Tube Women, p 363 (emphasis in orig.).

26. Michelle Stanworth, "Reproductive Technologies and the Deconstruction of Motherhood," in Reproductive Technologies: Gender, Motherhood, and Medicine, ed. Michelle Stanworth (Minneapolis, 1988), p. 14; hereafter cited in text.

27. For the relation between environmental and reproductive anxieties, see Ellen Cronan Rose, "The Good Mother: From Gaia to Gilead," Frontiers, 12 (1991), 77-97; on backlash, Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women (New York, 1991); on postfeminism, Tania Modleski, Feminism without Women: Culture and Criticism in a Postfeminist" Age (New York, 1991).

28. In his sensitivity to nuances within feminist criticism of Frankenstein and his reliance on and development of the ideas of feminist predecessors (most notably Poovey and Margaret Homans), Bewell -- like Marc Rubenstein before him -- may be said to participate in feminist criticism's production of knowledge about Frankenstein.

29. Alan Bewell, "An Issue of Monstrous Desire: Frankenstein and Obstetrics," The Yale Journal of Criticism, 2 (1988), 106-7; hereafter cited in text.

30. Anne K. Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters (New York, 1989), p. 111, hereafter cited in text. She cites Brian Easlea, Science and Sexual Oppression: Patriarchy's Confrontation with Woman and Nature (London, 1981); Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, 1985); and Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco, 1980). Curiously, Mellor does not mention the book in which Easlea specifically discusses Frankenstein as "Mary Shelley's indictment of masculine ambition" and "the compulsive character of masculine science," Fathering the Unthinkable: Masculinity, Scientists, and the Nuclear Arms Race (London, 1983); the quotations are taken from pp. 28 and 35 of Fathering the Unthinkable.

31. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (Harmondsworth, 1985), p. 92.

32. Drawing on his earlier book, Science and Sexual Oppression, which articulates a feminist critique of science, Brian Easlea uses Frankenstein in Fathering the Unthinkable to criticize the Manhattan Project. But although his use of Frankenstein assumes a feminist reading of the novel, he is not writing as a literary scholar but as a severe critic of nuclear scientists.

33. Colleen Hobbs, "Reading the Symptoms: An Exploration of Repression and Hysteria in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Studies in the Novel, 25 (1993), 152; hereafter cited in text as RS.

34. Bette London, "Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity," PMLA, 108 (1993), 261; hereafter cited in text.

35. Representative books include The Making of Masculinity: New Men's Studies, ed. Harry Brod (Boston, 1987); Beyond Patriarchy: Essays by Men on Pleasure, Power, and Change, ed. Michael Kaufman (Toronto, 1987), hereafter cited in text as BP; Men's Lives, ed. Michael S. Kimmel and Michael A. Messner, 2nd ed. (New York, 1992); and D. H. J. Morgan, Discovering Men (New York, 1992). In a more popular vein, see John Stoltenberg, The End of Manhood: A Book for Men of Conscience (New York, 1993).

36. Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men (New York, 1992); hereafter cited in text as lJ. Mythopoetic is Bly's own characterization of his wing of the "men's movement." See Lance Morrow, "The Child is Father of the Man," Time, 19 August 1991, 52-54.

37. Art Levine, "Masculinity's Champion," U.S News and World Report, 8 April 1991, 61; hereafter cited in text.

38. There is, of course, no way to determine what percentage of Bly's readers were male. But he candidly states in the preface, "in this book I am talking about male initiation only" (p. x), and feminists took issue with him not only, as might be expected, in Ms. magazine, but on the front page of the New York Times Book Review as well. See Sharon Doublaco, "Enemy of the Mother: A Feminist Response to the Men's Movement," Ms. (March-April 1992) 82f, and Jill Johnston, "Why Iron John Is No Gift to Women," New York Times Book Review, 23 February 1992, 1f. See also Susan Fahludi's remarks on Bly in Backlash, pp. 304-12.

39. Faludi implies that there is some connection between the masculinity movement and violence against women: "At a 1987 seminar attended by one thousand men," she reports "a man in the audience told Bly, 'Robert, when we tell women our desires, they tell us we're wrong.' Bly instructed, 'So then you bust them in the mouth.' After someone pointed out that this statement seemed to advocate violence against women, Bly amended it, 'Yes, I meant, hit those women verbally!'" (Backlash, p. 310).

40. Two years later, a government-sponsored survey revealed that more than five times the number of women were raped in 1990 than had been reported by the Justice Department. According to a spokesperson for the Justice Department, differences in methodology produced the statistical discrepancy. But he said that despite his department's lower rape figures, they too showed a trend toward increasing violence against women. See David Johnston, "Survey Shows Number of Rapes Far Higher than Official Figures," New York Times, 24 April 1992, A14.

41. Tamar Lewin, "25% of Assaults against Women Are by the Men in Their Lives,"New York Times, 17 January 1991, A20.

42. Jane Brody, "When Love Turns Violent: The Roots of Abuse," New York Times, 18 March 1992, C12.