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).
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."