oneirophrenia: (Mad Scientist 2)
I've recently been doing a lot of research into Frankenstein again in order to finish up my ages-old novel My Hideous Progeny (a complete rewrite of Mary Shelley's original in which Victor doesn't abandon his creation but goes on to make a few more and whatnot)...and I've been doing a bit of academic research into the novel in order to get a better handle on themes I may be dealing with or, potentially, want to be dealing with in my own work. Some of the articles I've encountered have been enlightening, though none have been particularly surprising or remarkably insightful. Some have been sheer tripe.

I ask you: How can ANYONE write a "feminist" critique of Frankenstein?

Sure, you can pay attention to the character of Elizabeth Frankenstein as a sort of idealized Romantic "new woman" imbued with certain characteristics that Mary Wollstonecraft lauded in her Vindication of the Rights of Women--that's a valid, if somewhat small (Mary Shelley really doesn't mention too much about Elizabeth Lavenza/Frankenstein: basically, the woman's just there to get strangled by the Monster and tug at the reader's heartstrings)--and maybe you could do the same for Justine Moritz, who again is basically just there to be kind of pathetic (in the sense of inspiring pathos). But how the HELL can someone write a feminist critique of Victor von Frankenstein?! Every goddamned article written about the novel after, say, 1961 is a pastiche of silly ideas concerning "men wanting to give birth like women" and assorted "confusion of the mother/father complex" and "gender stereotypes" tripe.

Bull. Fucking. Shit.

There is a certain amount of commentary one can make on Victor on F. being a bad father figure in that he, in essence, creates a sort of "son" and then abandons him at "birth"--a situation as common in the early 19th Century as it is still today. This commentary has been made and, for the most part, done very well--barring a few examples of laughable Freudian criticism that bring up the usual mother-lovin' and related silliness. But...I want to find the first idiot to say that Victor was, in effect, trying to "become a woman" by "giving birth" to a monstrous progeny and beat him/her senseless in an alleyway. This is a ridiculous interpretation, period. Even sillier because it ultimately grows out of the aforementioned Freudian nonsense. Hey, if you want to view Frankenstein as a "bad mother" then you go right ahead--everyone can interpret a piece of lit anyway they like--but don't go around writing 29-page articles defending your personal interpretation of the novel's primary dramatic situation as though this view can somehow be scientifically established by a linguistic analysis of Mary Shelley's writing both in the novel and in a few scattered letters she wrote to her friends. It's completely untenable from an "objective" point of view and therefore not worth writing about.

Luckily, I read an excellent feminist commentary on Mary Shelley's post-Frankenstein writings that actually added a great deal to my understanding of her situation as a widowed, somewhat scandalized old maid in early Victorian society. THAT article actually made me want to kick her father square in his wooden ass. How someone who could have been married to Mary Wollstonecraft and who had written on so many matters of political and social equity could treat his daughter as a pariah just because she "killed" her mother in childbirth is just...appalling. I could see how a horrible occurrence like this could certain color one's attitude towards a child to some degree, and perhaps even darken it, but don't go around claiming to be such a liberal proponent of the rights of the common man and treat your own progeny as though she were somehow a lesser being because of an event completely beyond her control. That is nothing more than pure, despised hypocrisy.

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oneirophrenia

April 2007

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