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Annotated Bibliography: Mary Shelley's Creation of the Monster

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Britton, Ronald. "Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: What Made the Monster Monstrous?" The Journal of Analytical Psychology 6.1-2 (2015): n. pag. Web. 3 Apr. 2015. Edit

Britton analyzes the possible root of the monster’s creation in Shelley’s writing of her story. He relates Shelley’s experience of having her mother die during childbirth with her later experience of watching her own infant daughter die just days after giving birth. Britton argues that alongside these traumatic experiences of her past, Coleridge’s epic Christabel played a large role in the production of the horrific dream that became the origin of her story. The piece, an epic written as the successor of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, was read by Lord Byron the night the adults were telling ghost stories at Villa Diodati, causing Percy Shelley to scream and run out of the room in terror. This event, Britton argues, was a leading factor in Shelley’s dream. He connects the themes of child abandonment (by their mothers) and gaze in Christabel to Shelley’s life experiences. In the piece, Geraldine states that her mother died the hour she was born and gaze is introduced with the description of a transformation in Geraldine’s eyes. Geraldine is described to look at Christabel “askance,” the word used by Milton in Paradise Lost by Satan when he finds Adam and Eve having sex. Britton says Frankenstein was the first novel to be written by a woman “contemporaneously with her experience of childbirth.” The article promotes discussion of the views of philosophers (including Wordsworth, Locke and Hume) on the topic of motherhood, or the lack thereof, and its psychological consequences. Britton introduces the idea of absolute horror of peri-natal rejection between an infant and mother, suggesting that a mother sees a monster when first seeing her baby. Britton closes the article making the argument that Shelley’s daydreaming did not provide an escape for subconscious, but rather opened the door to its horror.

Brooks, Peter. "What Is a Monster?" Body Work n.v. (1993): 199-220. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. Edit

Brooks examines the way in which Frankenstein’s monster, in its artificial creation, exists contrary to the conventional human means of socialization. He focuses on the use of language and how the identities of beings and their relationships are established in language itself. While the Creature is vile and excluded from society, Brooks argues that language is the monster’s closest means at identifying as a human. He states that language represents relation in the life of the monster. The words that make up language make possible, but also depend, on the chain of events that make up existence in which the Creature feels ostracized. Brooks connects the monster’s education of language with Enlightenment debates about origin, debating whether language originates in need or emotion. Brooks argues that language does in fact originate in emotion, stating that it is what allows for the possible escape of monstrosity for the Creature. Language is his only door open to experience human love and is ultimately what allows the Creature to have relationships with actual humans in general. Brooks also examines Lacan’s “Mirror Stage” concept, arguing that the imaginary unity the Creature sees in the mirror provides a sense of psychical integrity. Brooks references the scene in Paradise Lost when Eve first sees her reflection, and notes that while the Creature sees his own reflection as well, this event is succeeded by his opportunity to read of the specifics of his creation upon finding Frankenstein’s journal. The Creature is able to position himself in relation to others and the body is essentially always inscribed with symbolic and cultural significance. Brooks’ article analyzes the tie between human relationships and language, commanding that the connection between bodies and representation be re-examined.

Gigante, Denise. "Facing the Ugly: The Case of Frankenstein." ELH 67.2 (2000): 565-87. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. Edit

In this article, Gigante attempts to answer the question, “In what does the ugliness of Shelley’s monster exist?”. She compares the ugly to the grotesque, as well as to beauty, which she sees as the ugly’s invisible, silent partner.  She states that ugliness in Frankenstein is less of an aesthetic experience as much of a question of survival. The Creature symbolizes all that has no symbolism: “the repressed ugliness at the heart of an elaborate symbolic network that is threatened the moment he bursts on the scene, exposing to view his radically uninscribed existence.” This article addresses not just monstrosity, but the ugliness that precedes and predetermines the monstrosity. Gigante formally defines ugly using Burke’s three-part definition. While Frankenstein chose individual pieces for their beauty as he made the Creature, the ending product could not contain its own condition. Burke comments on the monster’s yellow, murky eyes, which block out an access to the soul and his yellow skin, which barely covers his muscles and arteries. Burke also makes the point that ugliness is not the opposite of proportion and fitness. Though Creature states that he is deformed when first seeing his own reflection, Gigante argues that it is not in fact deformed, and that deformity and ugly are not interchangeable terms. The third part of Burke’s definition of ugly is that in and of itself, it is not a sublime idea. Gigante ties connections of ugliness from Paradise Lost, Reflector and Pamela, making the argument that ugly was always tied with evil and beauty with good. Ugly disgusts and does so because it insists. The ugly, Gigante concludes, threatens to consume and disorder its subject.

Malchow, H. L. "Frankenstein's Monster and Images of Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain." The Past and Present Society 139 (1993): 90-130. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. Edit

Malchow dissects Shelley’s monster, interpreting its creation with a racial reading that incorporates the feminist and Marxist aspects of the times in terms of the psychological and social contexts. He argues that the portrayal of the monster derives from modern attitudes toward those who are not white. The article focuses on the hopes and fears of the end of slavery in the West Indies and of apprehension in the Luddite proletariat middle-class. While he says he believes literary images such Shakespeare’s Caliban or Rousseau’s noble savage must have played a role in Shelley’s writing, Malchow does, however admit that he has no proof that she had intentions to point out Jamaican escaped slaves in the creation of the monster in her novel. Malchow discusses the parallels between Shelley’s literary work and racial stereotypes that were taking place during her writing. He incorporates analysis on the ideas of Godwin and Rousseau concerning education, man and humanistic ideals. Malchow focuses on racism in the Napoleonic era, the education and moral dilemmas of the time, and how Frankenstein was incorporated into Victorian culture. He believes that Frankenstein as a well-known piece of fiction, even today, relied on, at least in some part, the social prejudices of the time for its literary content. Anne Mellor’s claim in “Making a Monster” that Shelley’s story idea was completely her own myth is contradicted by Malchow stating that Frankenstein owed much of its power and language to the Haitian and Jamaican slave rebellions that rose up over the confusion of the results of ruling out slavery.

Mellor, Anne K. "Making a Monster." Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. New York: Routledge, 1988. 38-51. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. Edit

Mellor begins her analysis of the creation of the monster in Frankenstein by stating that from a feminist viewpoint, the book is essentially about what takes place when a man tries to form a baby without a woman. She states that the dream that Shelley’s story was founded on is rooted in anxieties related to pregnancy, labor and motherhood. Mellor poses several concerns Shelley might have had concerning these topics, including whether she could kill the child, or whether it could kill her, as she had done to her own mother during her birth. Mellor states that the topic of pregnancy was avoided in literature by male authors during the time. Even when woman began to write, Mellor says the topic was seen as improper or even taboo. A connection is made with Frankenstein in how he parents his new creation. Mellor identifies the fact that Frankenstein, while never questioning whether his creature would have opposition to being the world, also never evaluated his lack of understanding and empathy for the monster he was creating. He didn’t think of how he would not be able to identify with a creature so different from himself. Even after the monster reminds Frankenstein of his parental obligation, saying, “"I ought to be thy Adam,” Frankenstein doesn’t act like a true father. Mellor finds this an interesting contrast from Victor’s own loving father, Alphonse, as well as the DeLacey father. Instead of focusing on the perspective of the rejecting parent though, Shelley focuses on the abandonment of the child, as she could identify with the somewhat orphaned creature. Mellor’s article is a discussion on how Shelley’s own traumatic experiences with parenting, as well as losing a parent influenced her creation of the monster, recognizing parallels between her life and the Creature’s.

Musselwhite, David E. "Frankenstein: The Making of a Monster." Partings Welded Together: Politics and Desire in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel. London: Methuen, 1988. 43-74. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. Edit

Musselwhite questions what has been criticized of Shelley’s Frankenstein in the past: How was the monster actually made? He makes the argument that while the reader isn’t given much insight to how the monster is made, the novel is obsessed with how monstrosity is created.  Musselwhite touches on three different aspects of the making of the monster. He is first suspicious by the fact that the monster has to work to learn anything at all in the novel. Musselwhite references two passages in the novel in which it is described the sort of people and language the monster is surrounded by—the domestic conversation within a group of fallen aristocrats. The Creature seems confused by the fact that words express ideas, but that they are also articulations of sounds. Musselwhite evaluates the means and motivations by which the monster learns specific words, and how he relates names of people to the original meanings of the names. Musselwhite next analyzes the monster’s gender and sexuality, tying the creation of the monster to masturbation in that the creation was hasty, hidden, and created shame and an addiction for Frankenstein as the creator. A third aspect of the creation Musselwhite analyzes is the Creature’s finding of Frankenstein’s journal. Documenting the four months prior to the monster’s creation, the journal allows the monster to relive its constitution, and makes him realize that he was old before he was young—being made of random parts that were already dead. Musselwhite essentially tackles the idea that the monster created in Frankenstein threatens our identities by representing the bodies we as men fear, the sexualities we deny, the confusion we mask, as well as our history we try to escape from.

Picart, Caroline Joan. "Visualizing the Monstrous In Frankenstein Films." Pacific Coast Philology 35.1 (2000): 17-34. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. Edit

In this article, Picart investigates the Frankenstein narrative within films specifically. She tracks how parthenogenesis, better known as male self-birthing, is presented in films over time, as well as how adaptation films have transformed the topic through exaggeration and hyperbole. Picart references the work of Rushing and Frentz, who differentiate two shadows in these films: the “inferior” and “overdeveloped” shadows. Both are ways through which the human psyche rids of the things it wishes to repress. Picart further discusses these by saying that the Frankenstein myth reveals two reactions to the machine—either people recognize it as a portion of themselves they must admit to, or as a separate monstrous entity that they themselves must control. Picart creates a third shadow of her own, one that combines the feminine and monstrous aspects of film; a combination of the first two shadows. She believes this shadow is most needed in Frankenstein films to alleviate tension in the plots. This third shadow has proven to be viewed as foreign and threatening, and thus, hasn’t been as widely used as the other two shadows. Picart gives the example of Frankenstein 1970, where both the female characters of Caroline and Judy are killed by the end of movie. She believes the deaths take place in order to resolve the conflict in the film. The “feminized” or “inferior” shadow has been safely held within the confines of the Frankenstein narrative. Picart further discusses the issues of this third shadow and how feminine monstrosity is presented through the examples of films such as Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Created Woman. She also analyzes female characters such as Justine and Elizabeth in the adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Curse of Frankenstein.

Raub, Emma. "Frankenstein and The Mute Figure of Melodrama." Modern Drama 55.4 (2012): 437-458. Web. 2 April 2015. Edit

Raub examines the unique characteristic of the monster being mute in the play Presumption. While many adaptations since the original text of Frankenstein was published have had mute monsters, Presumption was the first to investigate this mute character. Contrary to monster in Shelley’s text who mutters a few inarticulate sounds upon being created, the monster in Presumption is given no lines whatsoever. In this article, Raub contrasts the visual fields of gesture and character physiognomy in melodrama. She argues that the characteristics of the monster in Presumption directed the audience to identify innocence and vileness within the same character by using contradictory visual techniques that led to a confusion on how melodrama operates. While there has been much criticism on Peake for “dehumanizing” the monster by having him be mute, Raub believes Cooke affectively portrays goodness and kindness while still playing a horrifying monster. By the monster communicating through corporeal language, the audience was able to sympathize with the innocence its innocence, but were also able to identify its evilness through its make-up and costuming. Raub says that modern critics actually view the Presumption monster as more monstrous because of its muteness. She makes a unique observation that in the original novel, the monster verbally describes how he kills William, but in Presumption where the monster can’t use words, the audience must make assumptions. Raub says that by concealing the gruesome acts, Peake stresses sympathy for the character. While the monster isn’t shown to explicitly act out the evil deeds on stage, he does act out rescuing Agatha from drowning. Raub’s article analyzes the differences in how the monster is perceived in Presumption when it is mute, compared to in the novel, when it speaks.

Rovee, Christopher. "Monsters, Marbles, and Miniatures: Mary Shelley's Reform Aesthetic." Studies in the Novel 36.2 (2004): 147-169. Web. 1 Apr. 2015. Edit

Rovee analyzes the use of portraits in Frankenstein, most specifically that of the Creature, and their ties to romance and realism. A connection is drawn between the monster and class-definition, and attitudes are registered about the Elgin Marbles. The marbles represent a return of material repressed under the surface of artifice and culture, which the monster, Rovee argues, clearly exhibits, as an oversized body overloaded with “vulgar details.” By creating a monster rooted in the low and ugly, Rovee says Shelley reflects and propels social reconfiguration. Among other sections in this article, “Monstrous Realism” best focuses on the Creature from the text. Rovee references Cloudesly by Godwin, stating that Shelley’s own discussion of the piece promotes the “going-out of the self” as the basis of a radical realism that includes an aesthetic of affection and sympathy instead of power. The monstrous realism that the Creature embodies, in Rovee’s opinion, allows the commonplace to re-present the status quo and reveal a body politic that once as a whole, was pieced together by the fragments of humanness the novel offers, would now be difficult to suppress. This derives from Shelley’s own uncertain views on parliamentary reform. Rovee ties his discussion on portraits to the Creature’s monstrous realism when the Creature views a portrait of Caroline Beaufort in its aesthetic realism. Transfixed by the portrait’s beauty, the Creature is reminded of his own ugliness. Rovee states that only after viewing beauty for what it really is does the Creature realize his own aesthetic, which necessitates his alienation in society.

Salotto, Eleanor. "Frankenstein and Dis(Re)Membered Identity." Journal of Narrative Technique 24.3 (1994): 190-211. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. Edit

Salotto examines the concept of the Creature in Frankenstein being a reflection of Victor Frankenstein himself. Salotto references Lacan’s concept of the “Mirror Stage” in which a subject’s image corresponds to the subject’s “I.” Frankenstein attempts to make the Creature in his own image, but it becomes an “I” he can’t control. For this reason, Salotto argues that in the context of Frankenstein and the monster, dismemberment is “at the basis of subjectivity” and that the mirror image doesn’t create an overall composite image. Since the Creature is made up of random parts, Shelley describes a body without a definitive origin, tearing what subjectivity has meant in Western tradition. Frankenstein is initially the one gazing at his subject, but the Creature, once alive, returns the gaze. This signifies the split of the “I” of Frankenstein; it is no longer just himself, or a replica of himself, but rather, another being that has not turned out as he had wished. Salotto also references the dream Frankenstein has in the novel, which he states underscores the conflation and lack of boundaries in the identities of Frankenstein, his mother, Elizabeth, and the monster. Since his dream ends with the image of the creature, Salotto says the plans of Frankenstein’s origins are transferred to the monster. Salotto ties the scene in the novel when the monster holds up the bed curtain with the frame that acts as an intermediary between representation and the object. He states that there will always be a hidden excess of meaning that will act as an obstacle to origin and closure. By examining Frankenstein’s motives in creating the monster, as well as the unexpected result, this article delves into the concept that there will always be a variety of persons behind the “I”, and no one original “I.”

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