"Frankenstein was Mary Shelley's powerful contribution to the ghost stories which she, Percy Shelley and Byron wrote one wet summer in Switzerland. It tells the story of how a young student of natural philosophy learns the secret of imparting life to a creature constructed from relics of the dead, with horrific consequences. The story confronts some of the most feared innovations of evolutionism - topics such as degeneracy, hereditary disease and mankind's status as a species of animal. The text used here is the 1818 edition, which is a mocking expose of leaders and achievers who leave desolation in their wake, showing mankind its choice - to live co-operatively or to die of selfishness. It is also a black comedy, and harder and wittier than the 1831 edition, with which readers are more familiar. Drawing on new research, Marilyn Butler examines the novel in the context of the radical sciences, which were developing among much controversy in the years following the Napoleonic Wars, and shows how Frankenstein's experiment relateds to a contemporary debate between the champions of materialist science and of received religion.
Marilyn Butler is the editor of Shelley's "The Last Man", co-editor (with Pickering) of Works of Mary Wollstonecraft", and the author of "Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries".show more