A man of science makes dead matter live yet abandons his own creation. A creature is composed of human body parts yet denied a place in human society. The epic struggle that ensues between creator and creature poses enduring questions to all of us.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and in the Romantic age more generally, monstrosity came to be conceived as an excess of vitality. Exactly what life was, however, was a matter of intense debate.
Like her mother, Mary Shelley lived the life of a woman intellectual. Engaging public issues through her writing she offered a multifaceted view of the existing world through the speculative lens of other social and political possibilities. As a divine warning and portent of what to come, she was, in the etymological sense, a monster.
The Common Reader, a publication of Washington University in St. Louis, offers the best in reviews, articles and creative non-fiction engaging the essential debates and issues of our time.
Sign-up for email updates or “This Just In,” The Common Reader newsletter.Subscribe Now