The goal of this essay is to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a “bioethical” novel that draws upon several Romantic-era discourses that powerfully combined medical environmentalism, ecology, and political reform to criticize the “biotechnology” of her era. In her novel, Mary Shelley engages in a critique of the selective breeding that farmers of her era used to create new biological beings, as Victor Frankenstein does, by building on the role that new breeds of livestock played in the industrialization of late eighteenth-century British agriculture and the greater consumption of animal food in England. At the same time, Frankenstein also points up the problematic links between such breeding schemes and two other factors of the same period: the greater mobility of peoples and animals made viable by wide-ranging, seagoing trade, and the multiplicity of different-colored races made more apparent by how this mobility enabled the possibility of more human, as well as animal, crossbreeding.


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