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A more comprehensive and commanding delineation: Mary Shelley's narrative strategy in Frankenstein

Durrant, Simon Nicholas Colin (1993) A more comprehensive and commanding delineation: Mary Shelley's narrative strategy in Frankenstein. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis argues that the first edition of Frankenstein challenges conventional reading by employing what Simpson in Irony and Authority in Romantic Poetry calls Romantic irony, where the absence of a stable 'metacomment' precludes an authoritative reading. The novel hints at such readings but prevents them. The insights offered by Tropp's Mary Shelley's Monster, Baldick's In Frankenstein's Shadow, Poovey's The Proper Lady and the woman writer and Swingle's, 'Frankenstein's Monster and its Relatives: Problems of Knowledge in English Romanticism' are considered, but none recognises the full implications of the instability deriving from multiple first- person narratives. Clemit's The Godwinian Navel acknowledges the novel's indeterminacy, but reads a specific ideological purpose in it. Paradise Last provides a language to describe the relationship between the monster and Frankenstein, but proves too unstable to fix identity or establish moral value. Similarly, Necessity ultimately fails to provide a stable explanation in terms of cause and effect. The status of nature shifts between foreground and background, never allowing final definition. These uncertainties destabilise knowledge which is compromised by its provisional nature: no authoritative reading is possible, yet the novel has narrative coherence. The reader is encouraged to try to develop a reading the structure prevents. The radical nature of the first edition is highlighted by comparison with the 1831 edition, which removes much of the ambivalence and gives the novel a clearer morality. The novel challenges conventional methods of deriving authority by disturbing the reader's orthodox orientation in the world around him' (Simpson) in order to afford 'a point of view to the imagination for the delineation of human passions more comprehensive and commanding than any which the ordinary relations of existing events can yield' (Mary Shelley).

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:1993
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2012 10:58

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