Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Susan J. Wolfson, ed., Frankenstein: A Longman Cultural Edition; J. Paul Hunter, ed., Frankenstein: The 1818 Text; & Judith Wilt, ed., Making Humans: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau

Susan J. Wolfson, ed., Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein: A Longman Cultural Edition. New York: Longman, 2003. 343 pp.   $16.00 (Pbk; ISBN: 0-321-09698-3).
J. Paul Hunter, ed., Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, Contexts, Nineteenth-Century Responses, Modern Criticism. A Norton Critical Edition.  New York: W. W. Norton: 1996.  336 pp., ISBN 0-393-96458-2, $11.40.
Judith Wilt, ed., Making Humans: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, H. G. Wells,
The Island of Doctor Moreau. New Riverside Editions. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.  360 pp. $10.76 (Pbk; ISBN: 0-618-08489-4).

Reviewed by
Laura Mandell
Miami University

Three excellent new teaching editions of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have appeared over the last decade. All three make use of the 1818 text rather than the last, much revised 1831 edition for reasons stated most succinctly by Judith Wilt: "Increasingly [editorial] practice favors the 'first' text, true to its cultural and biographical context, rather than a later, authorized text, in which the writer is often at work 'modernizing' the original child of his or her brain" (13). But in the case of Frankenstein, there is slightly more involved in preferring the 1818 to the 1831 text. Wilt summarizes the reception history of various editions (14), and J. Paul Hunter includes in his edition the text that has had the most impact on our current preference for teaching the 1818 text, Anne K. Mellor's "Choosing a Text of Frankenstein to Teach."1  Mellor argues that "the 1818 edition alone presents a stable and coherent conception of the character of Victor Frankenstein and of Mary Shelley's political and moral ideology" (qtd. in Hunter 37). Significantly, though, Mellor means to open up discussions about comparing various editions rather than to definitively foreclose on them, and her article might provide a useful blueprint for introducing literature students to the biases hidden in editorial choices, invisible to those who simply pick up a text and read it as if it were "Mary Shelley's."

Mary Shelley's Fictions: From Frankenstein to Falkner. Edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra

Mary Shelley's Fictions: From Frankenstein
to
Falkner. Edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.  New York: St. Martin's Press/Palgrave, 2000. xxvi + 250pp.  $65.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-333-77106-0).

Reviewed by
Lisa Vargo
University of Saskatchewan

The very idea for this volume provides evidence for a significant reappraisal of Mary Shelley's career as a writer, a process that began in the late 1970s, when Frankenstein became an object of critical attention and a popular classroom text.  Further recuperation of Shelley's critical reputation has been aided by the appearance of editions of Mary Shelley's letters (1980-1988) and journals (1987), by critical studies by Anne K. Mellor (1988) and Jane Blumberg (1992), and by the suitably titled The Other Mary Shelley (1992). More recently access to fiction by Shelley was made possible by the appearance in 1996 of The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley from Pickering & Chatto and by single volumes from Broadview Press and from other publishers.  Mary Shelley's Fictions joins two other volumes of essays, Iconoclastic Departures (1997) and Mary Shelley in Her Times (2000), in communicating "the vitality and richness of current Shelleyan criticism" (ix).  The majority of the contributions that make up this volume took their first form in papers delivered at a series of conferences on Mary Shelley in Britain, Canada, and the United States during, as Nora Crook puts it, "the double bicentenary of Mary Shelley's birth and Mary Wollstonecraft's death" (xix).  In tracing the development of Mary Shelley studies, Nora Crook suggests in her introduction to the volume that "[w]e are now in a phrase of transition towards--let us say--'The Inclusive Mary Shelley,'" and it is her hope that this collection is "partly its product" and "partly its producer" (xx).  The fourteen essays, which are arranged into four sections, go a long way towards achieving inclusiveness in their considerations of Frankenstein, The Last Man, Mathilda, Valperga, selections from her short fiction, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, Lodore, Falkner, and the fragmentary "Life of William Godwin."

William D. Brewer, The Mental Anatomies of William Godwin and Mary Shelley

William D. Brewer, The Mental Anatomies of William Godwin and Mary Shelley. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh-Dickinson University Press, 2001.  246pp.  $39.50 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8386-3870-8).

Reviewed by
Judith Barbour
University of Sydney

There is no denying the dramatic interest and thematic pertinence to the fictional writings of William Godwin and Mary Shelley of the metaphor of the "mental anatomy" (Introduction 15–17 and passim), which gives the title to William D. Brewer's critical monograph, and contours its extended comparison of this father-and-daughter pair of authors. An anatomy in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (in the old form of the word "an atomie") is a violent delapidation of an organic unity. In the primitive conditions of hospitals and morgues contemporary with the Godwin-Shelley writers, only cadavers could be anatomized and made intelligible, dissected and made visible, the veins, nerves, and musculature traced, flayed, and probed. The metonym of the eye—its "terrible aspect"—is hegemonic in Enlightenment cultural politics. In one pathetic instance, the dead foetus, or as it was officially called the abortion, could by now be anatomized in situ in the dead gravid uterus, as the "naturalistic" optics and perspective machines of graphic artists gave the burgeoning male profession of scientific obstetrics its first breakthrough. Incidentally, "abortion" was one of the key words inserted by Percy Bysshe Shelley into the manuscript-in-the making of his pregnant lover's and soon-to-be-wife's Frankenstein (1818).

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Valperga; or, The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca, edited by Stuart Curran

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Valperga: or, The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca Edited and introduced by Stuart Curran. Women Writers in English 1350-1850, General Eds. Susanne Woods and Elizabeth H. Hageman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). [xxvi] + 454pp. $45.00 (ISBN: 0-19-510881-7); $16.95 (Pap; ISBN: 0-19-510882-5).

Reviewed by
Beth Dolan Kautz
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thanks to Stuart Curran's new edition of Valperga: or, The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca (1997), students and scholars alike can put away their tattered photocopies of the first of Mary Shelley's "other" novels. Curran dazzles us with the meticulous and thorough editing that we have come to expect from him, for example in his edition of Charlotte Smith's poetry (1993), a sister volume in the Oxford series Women Writers in English 1350–1850(General Editors Susanne Woods and Elizabeth H. Hageman). As a longtime scholar of the Shelley circle, a leader in the recovery and study of Romantic women's writing, and Director of the Center for Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Curran is particularly well suited to edit this historical novel, set in fourteenth-century Italy. Available in either cloth or paperback, the Oxford edition is not only an excellent resource for scholarly study, but also an affordable and portable alternative for the classroom. Curran's presentation of the novel, from his introduction to his last footnote, brings both fourteenth- and nineteenth-century Italian culture to life and invites readers to consider Mary Shelley's novel in a political framework.

Charles E. Robinson, Ed. The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley's Novel, 1816-17 (Parts One and Two)

Charles E. Robinson, Ed., The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley's Novel, 1816-17 (Parts One and Two). The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics, Volume IX, General Ed., Donald H. Reiman. Garland Publishing, 1996. cx + 827 pp. $340. (ISBN 0-8153-1608-9).

Reviewed by
Steven Jones
Loyola University Chicago

First, in the interest of full disclosure: I was lucky enough a few years back to do journeyman editor's work on the related Garland Publishing series, The Bodleian Shelley MSS, also under the general editorship of Donald H. Reiman. It was a remarkable education, one which left me thoroughly convinced of the larger importance of these monumental series. Their purpose is, first, to disseminate knowledge of archival primary sources, to make widely available, in photographic facsimiles accompanied by expert transcriptions and annotations, rare materials that were once only accessible to a handful of scholars conducting specialized research primarily in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. My own modest contributions to the series were like the proverbial individual stones laid in the wall of a larger collective edifice. The two volumes of The Frankenstein Notebooks here under review represent, by contrast, a whole archival wing of useful knowledge, a striking example of just what this kind of "diplomatic" edition--for that is what these two volumes are: an important scholarly edition--really can do. At the bicentennial of the author's birth, along with Nora Crook's Pickering edition and Stuart Curran's forthcoming Pennsylvania Hypertext edition, Charles Robinson's edition of Frankenstein manuscripts puts studies of the novel on a whole new footing for the coming century.

Subscribe to RSS - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley