Frankenstein is one of the most frequently adapted novels, as well as a foundational text for feminist literary theory. While the figure of the male mad scientist in general, and of Frankenstein in particular, has been the subject of a vast amount of critical scholarship, the female mad scientist has received little attention. Depictions of women scientists are interesting because of their relative rarity in film and other media, and women scientists in Frankenstein films are of particular interest because they engage with the definitive story detailing an obsession to create life outside of the female body. They also raise a number of significant issues, including technological reproduction, parental relationships, women as dangerous intellectuals, and the historical and continued demands of balancing professional and personal lives. This article surveys more than a dozen notable appearances of women in science (including lead researchers and laboratory assistants, as well as medical roles such as nurses) in Frankenstein films and series from 1945 to 2015, spanning several genres, including sf, horror and comedy. Regardless of genre, female Frankensteins (or laboratory assistants who might one day aspire to this role) are typically abject figures, mocked or made monstrous through some combination of embodiment, intelligence or ambition. This article provides an overview of scholarship on representations of scientists in sf and science-focused horror films, surveys the earliest Frankenstein films to include women in scientific or related professional roles, and provides a more detailed discussion of three recent films that give the Frankenstein story a contemporary setting and focus on familial themes.


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pp. 303-339
Launched on MUSE
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