Abstract

abstract:

This essay argues that Romantic-era concepts of regulation help us to understand both how and why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein provided a critical commentary on the sciences and political theories of its time and why the novel has continued to serve as a cultural touchpoint for understanding the implications of new technologies (for example, genetic engineering). Concepts of regulation appear at key points in Frankenstein, including in Robert Walton’s hopes that his trip to the North Pole will result in a scientific discovery about magnetism that can “regulate a thousand celestial observations” and in his and Victor Frankenstein’s reflections on the relationship between their education and their identities. Concepts of regulation were also central for many eighteenth-century and Romantic-era natural scientists, philosophers, political economists, and political theorists (including Antoine Lavoisier, Immanuel Kant, Mary Wollstonecraft, and William Godwin), and they were paramount to the development of “liberal” economic theory, which aimed to use the science of political economy to limit the power of the state. Robert Mitchell argues that Frankenstein takes up these concepts of regulation in order to critique this linkage of liberalism and the sciences, with the end of encouraging its readers to reimagine the components of liberalism in more equitable forms.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-399X
Print ISSN
0018-7895
Pages
pp. 749-770
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-23
Open Access
No
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