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).
Table of Contents
Monsters, Visionaries, and Mary Shelley
Edmund Burke, "On the Sublime and the Beautiful," from A
Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and
Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Men
William Gilpin, from Picturesque Travel
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere,
Mary Wollstonecraft, "Jemima's Story," from Maria, or The
Wrongs of Woman
Mary Godwin (Shelley), journal entries
Percy Shelley, from Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude
Mary Shelley, from History of a Six Weeks' Tour
Percy Shelley, "Mont Blanc"
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Canto 3, from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
George Gordon, Lord Byron, "A Fragment"
Richard Brinsley Peake, from Frankenstein, A Romantic Drama
Mary Shelley, from a letter to E. J. Trelawny
Dr. Benjamin Spock, "Enjoy Your Baby," from Baby and Child
Milton's Satan and Romantic Imaginations
The King James Bible, Genesis, Chapters 2 and 3
John Milton, from Paradise Lost
William Godwin, from An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Prometheus"
John Keats, "To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent"
John Keats, "Marginalia to Paradise Lost"
William Hazlitt, "On Shakespeare and Milton," from Lectures
on the English Poets
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Preface, Prometheus Unbound
Percy Bysshe Shelley, from A Defence of Poetry
Thomas De Quincey, "What Do We Mean by Literature?"
What the Reviews Said
John Wilson Croker, Quarterly Review, January 1818
Walter Scott, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, March 1818
Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany, March 1818
The Belle Assemblée, March 1818
The British Critic, April 1818
Gentleman's Magazine, April 1818
Monthly Review, April 1818
The Literary Panorama and National Register, June 1818
Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, March 1823
London Morning Post, July 1823
George Canning, remarks in the House of Commons, March 1824
Knight's Quarterly Magazine, August 1824
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Anthenaeum, November 1832
Further Reading and Viewing
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.
Table of Contents
Map: Geneva and Its Environs
Title page (1818)
Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
Composition and Revision
M. K. Joseph, The Composition of Frankenstein
Anne K. Mellor, Choosing a Text of Frankenstein to Teach
Mary Shelley, Introduction to Frankenstein, Third Edition (1831);
Letter to [?Fanny Imlay] (June 1816)
Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Mont Blanc" (1816); [The Sea of Ice ]
George Gordon, Lord Byron, from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto
[John William Polidori], Letter Prefaced to The Vampyre (1819)
Percy Bysshe Shelley, On Frankenstein (1817)
[John Croker], from the Quarterly Review (January 1818)
Anonymous, from Edinburgh Magazine (March 1818)
Anonymous, from Gentleman's Magazine (April 1818)
Anonymous, from Knight's Quarterly (Aug.-Nov. 1824)
Hugh Reginald Haweis, Introduction to the Routledge World Library Edition
Christopher Small, "[Percy] Shelley and Frankenstein"
George Levine, "Frankenstein and the Tradition of Realism"
Ellen Moers, "Female Gothic: The Monster's Mother"
Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve"
Barbara Johnson, "My Monster / My Self"
Mary Poovey, "'My Hideous Progeny': The Lady and the Monster"
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ["Frankenstein and a Critique
William Veeder, "The Women of Frankenstein"
Anne K. Mellor, "Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein"
Susan Winnett, "Coming Unstrung: Women, Men, Narrative, and Principles
Marilyn Butler, "Frankenstein and Radical Science"
Lawrence Lipking, "Frankenstein, the True Story; or, Rousseau
Mary Shelley: A Chronology
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).
Table of Contents
About This Series
A Note on the Texts
Part 1: Frankenstein and The Island of Doctor Moreau
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)
H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)
Part 2: Contexts: Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century
Mary Shelley, Author's Introduction to the Standard Novels Edition (1831)
Erasmus Darwin, from The Botanic Garden Part II, Containing the Loves
of the Plants: A Poem (1789)
Erasmus Darwin, from Zoönomia (1794-96)
Erasmus Darwin, from The Temple of Nature, Canto II (1803)
Alfred Lord Tennyson, from In Memoriam (1850)
Charles Darwin, from The Descent of Man (1874)
Thomas Henry Huxley, from "Evolution and Ethics" (1893)
Part 3: Contemporary Views
Marilyn Butler, "Frankenstein and Radical Science" (1993)
Maureen N. McLane, from Literate Species (2000)
Coral Lansbury, from The Old Brown Dog (1985)
Jennifer DeVere Brody, from Deforming Island Races (1998)
For Further Reading
Mandell, Laura. "On Susan Wolfson, ed., Mary Wollstonecraft
Shelley, Frankenstein: A Longman Cultural Edition; J. Paul Hunter,
ed., Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, The 1818 Text, Contexts,
Nineteenth-Century Responses, Modern Criticism; and Judith Wilt, ed.,
Making Humans: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, H. G. Wells,
The Island of Doctor Moreau." [date of access]. Romantic
Circles Reviews 7.2 (2004): 6 pars. 19 Apr. 2004. <http://www.rc.umd.edu/reviews/frankenstein.html>.
- 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."
- All giving us the 1818 edition, each of these new teaching editions
nonetheless targets very different student audiences as can be deduced
from what they include. Susan Wolfson's Longman Cultural Edition clearly
does the best job of recreating for students the cultural context of
Frankenstein's production and reception, giving them in-depth
access to what Shelley was reading and discussing with friends, the
contemporaneous literary productions of her cohort, and what was said
publicly about the novel at the moment that its first and second editions
appeared. The excerpts from Paradise Lost are most helpful, except
that I have myself found it necessary to hand out as a supplement a
portion of Satan's soliloquy beginning with the infamous phrase "Myself
am Hell." Some of it is included by Wolfson, but not enough. In
my mind some crucial lines have been omitted that can reconcile the
contradiction between Victor's dying speeches to Walton (do not blindly
follow your ambitions, as I did) and to Walton's crew (don't give up
in your quest), since the former may be less about diverting Walton
from his task of finding a passage to the north pole than about articulating
Victor's view of himself as "Supreme / In misery" (Paradise
Lost IV.9192, lines left out of Longman's). But the inclusion
of Jemima's story from Wollstonecraft's The Wrongs of Woman is
a stroke of pedagogical genius, since reading it will help students
see in concrete terms the political import of the monster's "education,"
occurring as it does less through books than through the first-hand
experience of bigoted cruelty. This edition further contains all the
contemporaneous reviews that are collected by the Norton critical edition,
plus many others including a very significant review by Walter Scott
revealing Shelley's influence on him as a novelist. One instance of
Wolfson's rigor in creating the culture of reception can be seen in
her dating P. B. Shelley's review of the novel according to its date
of publication rather than, as the Norton has it, its date of composition,
noting that the presence of this review of a novel reissued only a year
earlier is part of what made "Shelley's Papers" interesting
to Athenaeum readers.
- Another type of cultural response to Frankenstein beautifully
exhibited in Wolfson's edition that appears in no other teaching edition,
as far as I know, is the work of cultural appropriation. Included are
excerpts from Richard Brinsley Peake's 1823 Frankenstein, A Romantic
Drama, along with a picture of the monster from a placard advertising
the play as well as a picture frontispiece of another contemporary's
rewriting of the text. Shelley's monster and the Byronic hero (the subject
of Byronmania) are clearly important instances of Romantic epiphenomena.
Byron and Shelley address an educated audience by producing characters
who immediately become cultural phenomena in their own right, quasi-mythical
figures who have their own reception history distinct from how they
were received in "high" literary criticism.
- Hunter's Norton Critical Edition provides a less detailed view of
context and early-nineteenth-century reception, including only some
texts by those in the Shelley circle and some contemporaneous reviews.
The Reception section also contains a chronologically anomalous introduction
to a late-nineteenth-century edition of the novel, presumably included
to show its de-canonization until the second half of the twentieth century.
In contrast to the Longman Cultural Edition in which cultural
context of the historical moment is paramount, the Norton Critical
Edition includes major works of twentieth-century literary criticism
about the novel. Hunter does such a beautiful job in giving us the history
of twentieth-century feminist criticism of the novel that it seems a
bit cranky to wish that it included excerpts about the novel from David
Marshall's The Surprising Effects of Sympathy (though, of course,
I nonetheless wish it). By including M. K. Joseph's "The Composition
of Frankenstein" and Mellor's essay on editions as part
of "The Text" rather than "The Context" of Frankenstein,
Hunter suggests that published texts only arbitrarily freeze a moment
of textual process, and that exactly when and how one moment becomes
labeled "the text" as opposed to another is a community
rather than individual affair.
- Judith Wilt's New Riverside edition addresses another audience entirely,
designed for classes that are particularly interested in the rise of
science fiction during the Romantic and Victorian eras. While Wolfson
situates Frankenstein in the company of Burke's and Gilpin's
two essays on the sublime and picturesque (respectively), Wilt places
it next to a generous helping of Erasmus Darwin's poetry about plants.
And grandfather cavorts nicely here with grandson as Wilt reprints about
20 pages from Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man. The inclusion
of Thomas Henry Huxley's "Evolution and Ethics" as well as
an excerpt from current criticism by Coral Lansbury gives us a sense
of the urgency felt by nineteenth-century intellectuals in addressing
the ethics of science, clearly one impetus for the rise of the genre
of science fiction itself. An edition such as Wolfson's, trying to situate
Frankenstein firmly in its milieu, and one such as Hunter's trying
to reveal its impact on twentieth-century feminist criticism, have obvious
reasons for preferring to read the novel as an instance of "Female
Gothic" (Longman xvi; see also Ellen Moers, 214-224, in Hunter's
edition). But we risk underestimating Mary Shelley's achievementher
proleptic or even prophetic view of future literatureunless we
see Frankenstein within the history of generic development. The
New Riverside edition marks it once again as inaugurating the modern
tradition of science fiction. The texts selected by Wilt as comprising
Frankenstein's "context"the "radical science"
described by Marilyn Butler in one of the essays included in this editionnicely
indicates that ethical and not purely aesthetic needs were met by the
new genre, or this modern redaction of traditional utopian literature.
- In short, I can imagine using each one of these editions in different
classes: Wolfson's in an upper-division literature course trying to
make sense of the Romantic era; Hunter's in a survey course or a historical
literature course emphasizing feminist literary criticism (we teach
a course called "British Women Writers" at Miami); and Wilt's
in courses about the rise of science fiction or Victorian scientific
culture. We are lucky to have such an array of choices.
1. Norton 160-166; reprinted
from Approaches to Teaching Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, ed.
Stephen C. Behrendt (New York: MLA, 1990), 31-37. (Back)
Review published 19 April 2004; last updated 25 June