Mary Shelley’s Dantesque Theology of Creation
Chapter 6 centres on discussions of Dante and Mary Shelley. Brought up as Godwin’s daughter in the tradition of rational dissent, Mary Shelley has recourse to Dante’s Commedia to think theologically. She uses it allusively in Frankenstein to import a perspective of divine judgement on her scientist through dramatic irony and parallels with Dante’s Ulysses. Dante’s Gothic aesthetics of the damned as grotesque signs makes sense of Frankenstein’s failure to acknowledge his Creature, or admit any relation between them, thus making the Creature his monstrous double. In Mathilda and Valperga, by contrast, heroines compared to Dante’s female guides interrogate political tyranny and offer a more positive feminine mode of mediation between earthly and heavenly realms. Dante informs also Shelley’s conception of the prophetic authority of her role as author, where the grotesque allows a mode of human creativity which avoids claiming godlike powers, and allows a model of empowerment paradoxically enabled through an acceptance of creaturehood.
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