This article departs from the psychobiographical approach to Mary Shelley's dark incest novella Mathilda, engaging with recent feminist readings that interpret Shelley's heroine as a self-constructed actress who feigns passivity to gain empowerment. This interpretation of Mathilda as powerful actress instead of a helpless victim attempts to recuperate her as a positive figure of female agency. However, while Mathilda illuminates obstacles to female self-expression, it also critiques the ideology of a society that rewards contrivance and female passivity. Through readings of Mathilda's narrative voice and the individuals who threaten it, the article examines the heroine not as a biographical representation of Shelley, but as a carefully constructed character who allows us to discern the author's uneasiness about the sacrifices necessary to secure female narrative autonomy in her society.


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pp. 208-215
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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