Abstract

Abstract:

This essay investigates Mary Shelley’s use of contemporary chemical discourse in Frankenstein. Shelley states that Victor Frankenstein studies “chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term,” as he prepares, and then animates, his Creature. Though readers are never allowed to know the secrets of Victor’s practice, this essay suggests that Shelley engages carefully with the work of Humphry Davy and other early nineteenth-century chemists. A detailed investigation of the chemical discourse of the novel reveals that Victor’s animation of the Creature uses chemistry in a range of ways, and that he does not merely shock the creature into life using galvanic electricity. Rather, the novel suggests the gothic uncertainty at the heart of even Davy’s cutting-edge chemical research during this period, an uncertainty which Shelley exploits in her representation of Victor’s science.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. 269-286
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-19
Open Access
No
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