Two Lives of Frankenstein: Text and Moral Compass

Bedford, Alison ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6708-9896 (2014) Two Lives of Frankenstein: Text and Moral Compass. In: 18th Annual Work-in-Progress Conference: The Life of Things (2014), 29 Sept - 30 Sept 2014, Brisbane, Australia.

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Abstract

While the critical heritage of Frankenstein acknowledges it as one of the progenitors of the science fiction genre, this paper will argue for a new reading of the text as a moralisation of modern science and in doing so allow for a redefinition of the genre itself. The first life of Frankenstein was insignificant, with only 500 copies being sold initially. However, Frankenstein and his creature quickly became catchphrases for playing God. The text again evolved when Mary Shelley redrafted it for the 1831 edition; influenced both by how the text had been received and her own experiences in the intervening years. This new edition evidences the living nature of the text and this life continues in today’s reinterpretations of the work. The second life of Frankenstein is as a pioneer of the science fiction genre. Mary Shelley was uniquely positioned to write this watershed novel: an unprecedented confluence of personality, place and time. Hers was not a Gothic horror but rather something new - a narrativising of the science of the day. Victor Frankenstein’s creature became a symbol of the dangers of playing God in an increasingly Godless world. Shelley’s novel then is not only a narrativisation of science, but also a moralisation - she does not so much ask, what if? as she does, should we? And it is this new moral space that gives Frankenstein a unique heritage as the first genuine science fiction text, both creating and redefining our understanding of the genre as a whole.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Speech)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2022 23:07
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2022 23:07
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, science fiction, morality, genre
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470504 British and Irish literature
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470527 Popular and genre literature
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470514 Literary theory
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1302 Communication > 130203 Literature
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280116 Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/50685

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