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Frankenstein (Second Edition) (Norton…

Frankenstein (Second Edition) (Norton Critical Editions) (original 1818; edition 2012)

by Mary Shelley (Author)

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Title:Frankenstein (Second Edition) (Norton Critical Editions)
Authors:Mary Shelley (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2011), Edition: Second, 544 pages
Collections:Your library

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Frankenstein [Norton Critical Edition] by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1818)



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Although some would call it not a "great" novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is certainly one of the most important novels in the history of women's literature, and this importance is seen from the generally excellent supplemental essays included in the Norton Critical Edition (ISBN 9780393979381). The text is that of the earlier, 1818 edition – usage of which is defended in Anne Mellor's "Choosing a Text of Frankenstein to Teach"; but I would like to have seen some consideration of the legitimacy of the later, 1831 edition, especially in the context of a more pessimistic novel like The Last Man. (My one criticism of this Norton Critical Edition is that the critical essays pay virtually no attention to any of Mary Shelley's other works.)

The supplemental essays include such classics as Ellen Moers's "Female Gothic: The Monster's Mother" and "Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve" from Gilbert & Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic along with such other excellent articles as Marilyn Butler's "Frankenstein and Radical Science" (the influence of William Lawrence as a friend of the Shelley circle) and Lawrence Lipking's "Frankenstein, the True Story; or, Rousseau Judges Jean-Jacques" (the Rousseauean influence, especially that of Emile), though Susan Winnett's "Coming Unstrung: Women, Men, Narrative, and Principles of Pleasure" verges on psychobabble with its discussion of female "literary tumescence." Gayatri Spivak's "Frankenstein and a Critique of Imperialism" is a bit cluttered with excessively academic jargon but does engage in an interesting discussion of Safie as the "other" that raises comparisons in my mind with Antoinette/Berta of Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea.

It's rare to find a critical anthology with articles that will please everyone, but this particular NCE should come fairly close and will certainly include some essays that everyone should find to be "must reads." ( )
  CurrerBell | Jan 10, 2014 |
Everybody thinks they know the story of Frankenstein, although many will have not read the book. They will have most likely seen one of the many film versions or will have at least some idea of what Frankenstein is because the word Frankenstein has passed into common usage as a word signifying monster. Most people then will be in for a shock if they read the book, because even if they did not realise that Frankenstein was not the monster (He was the scientist that created "The Creature"), by the end of the novel they may well feel that there is more than one monster, because this is not a simple story and a reader's natural sympathy tends to switch from one to the other. I am sure I read the novel some time ago, but I am not so sure that I read Mary Shelley's original 1818 version which is the preferred text in the Norton Critical Edition. I was under the impression that Frankenstein's character was essentially good and the monster; although misunderstood was essentially evil, but throughout my reading experience these thoughts were challenged in the most unexpected ways. There is a constant edginess in this story that made me feel that something was not quite right with the actions of many of the characters: the sort of feeling you get when you are introduced to someone and they make you feel uncomfortable; you can't quite put your finger on it at the time but your senses are screaming at you; "beware!".

The first surprise when I started the book was the realisation that it is an epistolary novel. It starts with letters from R Walton to his sister which describe his exploratory voyage towards the North Pole. It is in the fourth letter that starts with "So strange an accident has happened to us, that I cannot forbear recording it" that the real story starts: he has rescued a half dead man adrift on the ice and after a few days when he recovers the stranger beseeches Captain Walton to hear his story. Walton complies with the request writing down the narrative as told to him by Frankenstein. It is already clear from Walton's previous letters that the captain has difficulties in relating to other people and he is a somewhat obsessive character and so when his fifth letter starts:

"My affection for my guest (Frankenstein) increases everyday. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree. How can I see so noble a creature destroyed by misery without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated; and when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and unparalleled eloquence."

Captain Walton seems well on the road to hero worship here and when we read Frankenstein's narrative his thoughts and actions seem that of another obsessive individual. The monster's story is told to us by Frankenstein and so takes the form of a tale within a tale within a tale, but the monster's story is the most thoughtful and eloquent of the stories and at times the one most deserving of our sympathies. We are therefore reading three narratives, all by narrators that could be extremely unreliable and which only enhances some of the strangeness of the story they have to tell.

Peter Brooks in his essay "What is a Monster? (According to Frankenstein) says the reader should "look closely at a text which is too complex, peculiar and interesting to be neglected". There is now no fear that Mary Shelley's book will be neglected even though it faded into obscurity through much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: today it is securely placed in the cannon and much ink has been spilt in trying to get to grips with Shelley's intentions or thoughts when she wrote her novel. In the Norton Critical edition there are sixteen essays ranging from Sandra M Gilbert and Susan Gurbar's "Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve" which attempts to link the monster to Shelley's own maternity issues (she was unmarried and pregnant when she wrote it) to James A W Heffernan's "Looking at the Monster Frankenstein and Film.". There are many claims for this novel: Brian W Aldiss claims that it is the earliest novel that can be securely placed in the science fiction genre, it is claimed by many to be an extraordinary example of a gothic novel and of course there have been many feminist readings that have claimed all sorts of things. The Norton Critical edition does a good job of providing essays that are different in tone and scope adding much to a readers enjoyment of the novel.

The Norton Critical edition also provides much in the way of contexts. The story of why and how the novel was written is a fascinating subject in itself: Mary had eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley and they were staying in a villa near Lake Geneva. Lord Byron and his entourage were staying nearby at the Villa Diodati. The Shelleys would spend evening at Lord Byron's place staying over if the weather was bad. The summer of 1816 was atrocious because of a volcanic eruption that had adversely affected the weather and there were literally weeks of rain. One night Byron suggested that everyone should try their hand at writing a ghost story and Mary set to with a will and started her novel Frankenstein. Apart from Dr Polidori's Vampyre hers was the only exercise that eventually resulted in a fully fledged novel and there was some interventions by Percy along the way. The novel was published anonymously in 1818 and received some hostile reviews because of its materialistic stance; the idea of a man as a creator was too much for some critics.

When all is said and done this is a great story and still a rattling good read. I would recommend that every effort should be made to read the 1818 text rather than the 1831 revised text, which made Frankenstein a more sympathetic as well as a more religious character. The revisions were an attempt at damage limitation after the sensational Burke and Hare murder trial in the 1820's. Critics today recommend the 1818 text and care should be taken because the 1831 text is still very much alive as it proved to be the most popular at the time. This is a wonderful reading experience and if you have any affinity for Gothic or early Victorian novels then don't miss out on this. A Five star read. ( )
11 vote baswood | Sep 16, 2013 |
Widely considered to be the first SF work, Frankenstein deals with the "responsibility and consequences of human creation (Bomarito & Whitaker, 2006)." This theme is underscored by Shelley's references to Paradise Lost and Prometheus. Today, many mistakenly think the central theme is a warning against going too far with science, however, that was not Shelley's intention. The story attempts to show what can occur when someone "violates the natural order (Bomarito & Whitaker, 2006) and also, the anguish endured when the creation is rejected by its creator.

Frankenstein is soft-SF as Shelley does not provide a detailed description of the science behind the creation of the monster and it certainly deals more with social issues. My previous exposure to this book was a course on Weimar Germany in which Frankenstein was discussed to gain a better understanding of Europe prior to WWI. Looking at it now through the lens of SF only added to my appreciation of the book.
  leabharlannagra | Jan 12, 2013 |
Frankenstein is one of those "you may think you know the story" books ... the idea of this book sort of gets ingrained at some point, but reading it you discover it's not really like that at all. The story is much less ridiculous than the caricature of it; Shelley's tale is much more sinister and more philosophical, and makes for absolutely gripping reading. The monster is no awkward, shambling zombie-type, but something much more ambiguous and, at times, even sympathetic.

The contextual essays, notes on the text, and other material made available in the Norton Critical edition are, as usual, both useful and enlightening. The pieces on the composition and publication of the book, and the evolution of the text, were particularly handy. The text, of the 1818 first edition, is kept mostly clean and free of obstructions. Overall, certainly a good way to experience this classic. ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 27, 2012 |
I don't think I had any idea how much I would enjoy this book. Of course, the films focus on the monster terrorizing the village, but the book is more about the creator's internal struggles and remorse. Great Gothic novel. The style reminds me in many ways of Wilkie Collins's Woman in White, somewhat because of the letters and different frames of reference, but also because of the slow, steady building of the story. The plot takes hold of you and you cannot put it down, but the writing is also beautiful. ( )
  zoeernie | Sep 23, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hunter, J. PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To William Godwin, Author of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, THESE VOLUMES Are respectfully inscribed by THE AUTHOR.
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Preface:  The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not of impossible occurrence.
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Do Not Combine: This is a "Norton Critical Edition", it is a unique work with significant added material, including essays and background materials. Do not combine with other editions of the work. Please maintain the phrase "Norton Critical Edition" in the Canonical Title and Series fields.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393964582, Paperback)

The text of this Norton Critical Edition is that of the 1818 first edition, published in three volumes by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, in which only obvious typographical errors have been corrected. This text represents what Frankenstein's first readers encountered and is the text favored by scholars. A special critical section, Composition and Revision, includes essays by M. K. Joseph and Anne Mellor that address the issues surrounding teachers' choice of text.

Contemporary perspectives of the text are provided in two sections: Contexts helps place the novel in relation to the mind of its creator through writings by Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and John William Polidori; Nineteenth-Century Responses collects six reactions to the book from the years 1818 to 1886.

Criticism brings together twelve seminal essays. The emphasis is on range—both critical (psychoanalytic, mythic, new historicist, and feminist essays are included) and chronological (essays span the last thirty years). Christopher Small, George Lebine, Ellen Moers, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Barbara Johnson, Mary Poovey, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, William Veeder, Anne K. Mellor, Susan Winnett, Marilyn Butler, and Lawrence Lipking provide diverse perspectives.

A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:11 -0400)

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The story of Dr. Frankenstein and his obsessive experiment that leads to the creation of a monstrous and deadly creature.

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