Critical Essays on Frankenstein, Part II

And now, some of the essays from the Norton Second Edition of Frankenstein! (As a quick reminder, the original edition is my personal copy; the 2012 Second Edition was supplied by the publisher for review).

The Introduction: “[Frankenstein‘s] central narrative of creative overreaching and bitter disillusionment in a sense outgrew the novel itself and became a kind of independent trope or ‘myth’ that invaded other forms of art.”

There is more  here about Shelley and her life. I think that part of the reason I like reading about their lives is it is so outside the “norm” of society as we are told it existed then; it reminds us that people, and their times, are complex. Some of the texts that Shelley was influenced by, including her husband’s work, are included in these editions. Essays delve more into the historical origins of the story. This edition also looks at Frankenstein in its later incarnations, in plays and film. In so looking at the editions and films and plays, the reader also learns about the publishing and copyright practices of the time. Also examined, what, at different times, people meant when they invoked Frankenstein or his monster as a metaphor.

Another difference from the first edition: this one has a better map (or, at least, one that is easier to read). There are a handful of new footnotes.

In my mini-Frankenstein obsession, I also began getting some of the various Frankenstein inspired films and I am shocked that there isn’t more out there about Mary Shelley. As Lawrence Lipling writes in Frankenstein, the True Story; or, Rousseau Judges Jean-Jacques, “if Frankenstein had never been conceived, the genealogical, psychological, intellectual, political, and sexual complexities of that summer [of 1816] would still provoke plenty of thought.”

And, I can’t resist: Charles Baldick, The Reception of Frankenstein:William Beckford, a pioneer of the Gothic novel in England, recoiled in disgust from this latest of his offspring, writing in the fly leaf of his copy: “This is, perhaps, the foulest Toadstool that has yet sprung up from the reeking dunghill of the present times.” Yes, instead of quoting some of the wonderful insights about how the novel is crafted, I go for the bit that shows that snark isn’t a recent invention by bloggers.

3 thoughts on “Critical Essays on Frankenstein, Part II

  1. I, too, have a bit of an obsession about FRANKENSTEIN since teaching it to tenth graders many years ago. This book moved them. The themes are powerful, relevant, and timeless. It is not a “monster book.” It is a cautionary tale about so many things—science, creation, attachments, rejection, man’s search for meaning. God bless anyone who reads, teaches, and loves this book!


  2. Tanya, I love the layers to it. I also liked the odd freedom of responding bit by bit to it, knowing some things and not knowing others as I read it for the first time.


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