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In Frankenstein's ShadowMyth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing$
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Chris Baldick

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122494

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122494.001.0001

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The Monster Speaks: Mary Shelley's Novel

The Monster Speaks: Mary Shelley's Novel

(p.30) 3 The Monster Speaks: Mary Shelley's Novel
In Frankenstein's Shadow

Chris Baldick

Oxford University Press

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein manages to achieve a double feat of self-referentiality, both its composition and its subsequent cultural status miming the central moments of its own story. Like the monster it contains, the novel is assembled from dead fragments to make a living whole; and as a published work, it escapes Shelley's textual frame and acquires its independent life outside it, as a myth. These peculiarities of Frankenstein arise not because literary texts can refer to nothing beyond themselves, but because Romantic writing typically selects the creative labour of the artist as itself the adumbrating figure and symbol for all human engagement with the world, thereby making out of its apparently circular self-reference a wider domain of significance that aspires to the universal. There is even a case for reading Frankenstein as a dramatization of just this perversity in the Romantics' self-referring quest for universal meanings—which would make the novel self-referential to the second power.

Keywords:   Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, monster, myth, self-reference, Romantics

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