5: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, 1823.

Sometimes described as the origin point of modern science fiction, Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley’s Frankenstein is certainly one of the first explicitly dystopian pieces of fictional imagining in English. The focus on the terrible ends to which conviction and science can be put give the novel much of its incredible emotive power. Since popularised by film and television, Frankenstein has entered modern consciousness as the definitive warning against the unheeding pursuit of science, a kind of modern Dr Faust for us all. Most people forget who the true monster actually is in the book though.

Food for Thought:
What role do constructions of masculinity and femininity play in this novel, and how might Shelley be critiquing the ways that gender norms and science interact?

Required Reading:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus (1818-23). Any edition.

Alexander Cook, ‘Perfecting monstrosity: Frankenstein and the enlightenment debate on perfectibility’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 41:3 (2019); pp. 243-253.

Further Reading:

Megen de Bruin-Molé, ‘“Hail, Mary, the Mother of Science Fiction” Popular fictionalisations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in film and television, 1935–2018’, Science Fiction Film and Television, 11:2 (Summer, 2018); pp. 233-255.

Fred V. Randel, ‘The Political Geography of Horror in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”’, ELH, 70:2 (Summer, 2003); pp. 465-491.

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