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Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity

Bette London
PMLA
Vol. 108, No. 2 (Mar., 1993), pp. 253-267
DOI: 10.2307/462596
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462596
Page Count: 15
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Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity
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Abstract

While a strong feminist tradition has virtually revolutionized the reading of Frankenstein, giving the work's feminine subject new visibility and centrality, this approach has simultaneously obscured access to the text's theatrical display of masculinity. Yet an understanding of the deployment of the male body (in the novel and in the cultural construction of Mary Shelley) might challenge current understandings of both the gendering of Frankenstein and Frankenstein's place in the gendering of literary history. The spectacle of masculinity haunts late-nineteenth-century Shelleyan iconography and informs the gendered narratives that shape such influential studies as James Rieger's twentieth-century textual and biographical reconstructions of Frankenstein and its author. Given this history, a feminist critique can profit from a reading of Frankenstein's insistent exhibition of masculinity, for the male spectacle unfixes gender hierarchies, illuminating the fractures and contradictions underlying masculine authority.

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