Gone Forth to Prosper: Mary Shelley’s global novel, Frankenstein

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deBie, Jennifer R.
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University College Cork
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For decades, Mary Shelley criticism has undergone steady expansion as she and her work have received recognition from the academic community writ large. In recent years Shelley’s later works, novels, short stories, and encyclopaedia entries, have received critical attention, but the bulk of Shelley scholarship still centres on her first novel: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus(1818). That said, despite Frankenstein being only nominally set in Britain and its author’s numerous international interests, most criticism of Frankenstein remains largely Anglocentric. This thesis seeks to broaden the scope of Frankenstein criticism beyond the limitations previously accepted by Shelley critics by examining such disparate topics as French and German fairytales, golem and automaton fiction, the placement of South America within the 19th century European consciousness, Italian anatomical wax figures, and the intermingling of life and death culturally and scientifically during Mary Shelley’s lifetime. Shelley critics have long leaned heavily on the specific records Shelley left behind in her Journals, and Letters. These documents serve as valuable tools, but they have also proven to be blinders for many scholars, curtailing the scope of what can be included in Shelley and Frankenstein criticism. By acknowledging them as an imperfect record, I am able to move beyond the explicit text of Shelley’s life, to take a materialist approach to the world she lived in and apply that materialism to her first novel. By simultaneously broadening my understanding of what Frankenstein criticism can entail and narrowing my focus to just this novel rather than Shelley’s entire oeuvre, this thesis describes a new Frankenstein, a global novel which serves as a lens for the interconnected world Mary Shelley knew.
Frankenstein , Mary Shelley , Romantic literature , South America , Wax figures , Fairytales , Galvanism , Nineteenth century literature
deBie, J. R. 2020. Gone Forth to Prosper: Mary Shelley’s global novel, Frankenstein. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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