This essay proposes that Mary Shelley’s fictional Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is productively conceived via Enlightenment preoccupations with accounting for origins of humanity, society, and language. The shaking of confidence in the Bible’s account of such origins, beginning in the late seventeenth century, prompted any number of thinkers either to provide an allegorical reading of the Genesis story or to offer an alternative account, without, however, being on firm empirical ground to do so. This essay argues that the creature’s account of the early phases of his life correspond strikingly to narratives of the early origins of humanity in Constantin François Volney, William Godwin, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and that these must be taken into account in deciphering one allegorical strain of this post-Enlightenment fiction.


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pp. 777-798
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