SHELLEY, Mary Wollstonecraft


SHELLEY, Mary Wollstonecraft
(1797-1851)
   UK writer, daughter of the philosopher and novelist William Godwin (1756-1836) and of the feminist and educationist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), who died giving birth to her. MWS married Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) in 1816, 2 years after they had eloped to the Continent, and after his first wife had committed suicide. During 1816 the Shelleys spent much time with Lord Byron (1788-1824) who (or possibly his physician, John William Polidori [1795-1821]) suggested, after reading some of their work, that they should each write a ghost story. Nothing much came of Byron's or Percy Shelley's efforts, though Dr Polidori wrote The Vampyre (1819), but MWS - who was in her teens - wrote Frankenstein,or The Modern Prometheus (1818; rev 1831), the most famous English HORROR novel - though perhaps not the most widely read, as its conventional GOTHIC narrative structure, which involves stories within frames andsentimentalized rhetoric, makes it somewhat difficult going for many modern readers more familiar with the numerous film, tv and other spin-offs from the original tale (FRANKENSTEIN; FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER). The young Swiss scientist Frankenstein is obsessed with the notion thatthe spark of life may be a "spark" in some literal fashion, and hopes to create life by galvanizing dead matter. To this end he collects human remains, constructs a grotesque but mechanically sound body, and shocks it into life. The awakened/created MONSTER, initially innocent but soon corrupted by Frankenstein's growing revulsion, demands of his maker that a mate be created for him, and when this demand is refused starts on a rampage in which Frankenstein's wife and brother are killed. Frankenstein begins to track the monster down to destroy it, but eventually perishes, his mind gone, deep in the Arctic. The monster disappears across the ice floes.The increasing critical attention Frankenstein has received in recent years has focused on MWS herself, on her relation to her father's rationalist philosophy, and on her life with her husband at the time of the book's genesis. The novel itself has been analysed in terms of these concerns, perhaps most fruitfully in studies of its relation to the idea of the "natural man". The monster - who reads Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) - is in a sense a tabula rasa, and the evil that hedoes, he is shaped to do by the revulsion and persecution of others; he has to learn to be a monster. Alternatively, he can be thought of as an embodiment of the evil latent in mankind, in which case he need merely be given the opportunity to be a monster. The novel has also been studied as a defining model of the Gothic mode of fiction, and in Billion Year Spree (1973; much exp vt Trillion Year Spree 1986 with David WINGROVE), Brian W.ALDISS argues its importance as the first genuine sf novel, the first significant rendering of the relations between mankind and science through an image of mankind's dual nature appropriate to an age of science. Aldiss's own Frankenstein Unbound (1973) treats of both MWS and hercreation. Although MWS's novel does seem vulgarly to argue that there are things that Man is not meant to know, it is far more than an awful-warning shot across the bows of the evils of scientism; no simple paraphrase of this sort can adequately describe it.MWS wrote a further PROTO-SCIENCE-FICTION novel, The Last Man (1826), set at the end of the21st century, in which a plague decimates humanity. The surviving Americans invade Europe but, although war ends before the extinction of humanity, the remaining British are soon reduced through strife to the last man of the title, who much resembles MS's late husband, and who ends the novel in a small boat sailing off to the Eastern Isles. The tale served as a model for much subsequent work using its basic idea of a world in which there can be a last, secular survivor. The story of most interest assembled by Richard GARNETT in Tales and Stories by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (coll 1891) is The Mortal Immortal (in The Keepsake [anth 1934];c1910 chap US); the later Collected Tales and Stories (coll 1976 US) is more convenient. The Mary Shelley Reader (coll 1990 US) presents the original-and rather more sharply told - 1818 version of Frankenstein, several short stories, and other valuable material.
   JC
   About the author: There is much criticism. Mary Shelley (1959) by E. Bigland; Mary Shelley (1972) by William A. Walling; Ariel Like a Harpy: Shelley, Mary and Frankenstein (1972; vt Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Tracing the Myth US) by Christopher Small; Mary Shelley's Monster - The Story of Frankenstein (1976) by Martin Tropp; Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley (1978) byJane Dunn; Mary Shelley (1985) by Harold BLOOM. Critical editions of Frankenstein include those ed M.K. JOSEPH (1969), James Rieger (1974 US), Maurice Hindle (1985), Marilyn Butler (1994), which gives the 1818 text; and The Annotated Frankenstein (1979; rev vt The Essential Frankenstein 1993), ed Leonard Wolf, also giving the 1818 text.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft — orig. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin born Aug. 30, 1797, London, Eng. died Feb. 1, 1851, London English Romantic novelist. The only daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, she met and eloped with Percy B. Shelley in 1814. They married in… …   Universalium

  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft — ► (1797 1851) Escritora británica, hija de William Godwin y segunda esposa de Shelley. Autora de Frankenstein (1818). * * * orig. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (30 ago. 1797, Londres, Inglaterra–1 feb. 1851, Londres). Novelista romántica inglesa.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • SHELLEY, MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT —    author of Frankenstein, daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft; became the wife of the poet Shelley in 1816 after a two years illicit relationship; besides Frankenstein (1828), wrote several romances, The Last Man, Lodore, &c.,… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft —  (1797–1851) English writer, and second wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), English poet …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Shelley,Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin — Shel·ley (shĕlʹē), Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. 1797 1851. British writer best known for the Gothic novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818). She married Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816. * * * …   Universalium

  • Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley — Mary Shelley, 1840 gemalt von Richard Rothwell Mary Shelley (* 30. August 1797 in London; † 1. Februar 1851 ebenda), geborene Mary Godwin, häufig auch als Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley bezeichnet, war eine englische Schriftstellerin des frühen 19.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley — Mary Shelley, 1840 gemalt von Richard Rothwell Mary Shelley (* 30. August 1797 in London; † 1. Februar 1851 ebenda), geborene Mary Godwin, häufig auch als Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley bezeichnet, war eine englische Schriftstellerin des frühen 19.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Wollstonecraft — Portrait par John Opie (v. 1797). Activités Femme de lettres Naissan …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin — Mary Shelley Demande de traduction Mary Shelley → …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mary Wollstonecraft — (Hoxton, 1759 Londres, 1797) Escritora británica. Es autora, entre otras obras, de una Reivindicación de los derechos de la mujer (1792), considerado como el primer escrito teórico del feminismo. Viajó a Francia durante la revolución, y, de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Mary Wollstonecraft — by John Opie (c. 1797) Mary Wollstonecraft ( …   Wikipedia


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