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Reading Gothic FictionA Bakhtinian Approach$
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Jacqueline Howard

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198119920

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119920.001.0001

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Pseudo-Scientific Gothic: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus

Pseudo-Scientific Gothic: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus

Chapter:
(p.238) 6 Pseudo-Scientific Gothic: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus
Source:
Reading Gothic Fiction
Author(s):

Jacqueline Howard

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119920.003.0007

This chapter turns to how, in the early 18th century, Gothic fiction moved away from the ‘explained supernatural’ and ‘accepted supernatural’ of the earlier Gothic of Walpole, Reeve, Radcliffe, and Lewis towards the use of pseudo-scientific explanation which still leaves room for doubt and fear. Tales such as Frankenstein introduce and maintain the fantastic in such a way that the strange and disturbing events of the narratives cannot be explained with any certainty as having either supernatural or natural causes. Combining supposedly scientific discourse with the marvellous and uncanny in first-person narrations, such texts present us with extreme states of consciousness which could be taken for either paranoid delusion or demonic possession. Because Frankenstein utilizes the fantastic in this way and also tends towards prose realism, it represents a new development in, and revitalization of, the Gothic, while demonstrating the continuing reliance of the genre on folk-tales, ballads, legends, and myths for its effects.

Keywords:   Frankenstein, supernatural, consciousness, paranoid delusion, demonic possession

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