Literary Criticism

A Life with Mary Shelley (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics) by Judith Butler, Shoshana Felman, Barbara Johnson

By Judith Butler, Shoshana Felman, Barbara Johnson

In 1980, deconstructive and psychoanalytic literary theorist Barbara Johnson wrote an essay on Mary Shelley for a colloquium at the writings of Jacques Derrida. The essay marked the start of Johnson's lifelong curiosity in Shelley in addition to her first foray into the sector of 'women's studies,' one among whose commitments used to be the rediscovery and research of works via girls writers formerly excluded from the tutorial canon. certainly, the final publication Johnson accomplished ahead of her dying used to be Mary Shelley and Her Circle, released the following for the 1st time. Shelley was once therefore the topic for Johnson's starting in feminist feedback and in addition for her finish. it's stunning to remember that once Johnson wrote her essay, simply of Shelley's novels have been in print, critics and students having in general brushed off her writing as inferior and her occupation as an aspect impression of her well-known husband's. encouraged via groundbreaking feminist scholarship of the seventies, Johnson got here to pen but extra essays on Shelley over the process an excellent yet tragically foreshortened profession. quite a bit of what we all know and consider Mary Shelley at the present time is because of her and a handful of students operating simply a long time in the past. during this quantity, Judith Butler and Shoshana Felman have united all of Johnson's released and unpublished paintings on Shelley along their very own new, insightful items of feedback and people of 2 different friends and fellow pioneers in feminist idea, Mary Wilson wood worker and Cathy Caruth. The booklet hence evolves as a talk among key students of shared highbrow tendencies whereas ultimate the circle on Johnson's lifestyles and her personal fascination with the lifestyles and circle of one other girl author, who, after all, additionally occurred to be the daughter of a founding father of smooth feminism

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Additional resources for A Life with Mary Shelley (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)

Sample text

Yet it is not merely in its depiction of the ambivalence of motherhood that Mary Shelley’s novel can be read as autobiographical. In the introductory note added in 1831, she writes: The publishers of the standard novels, in selecting Frankenstein for one of their series, expressed a wish that I should furnish them with some account of the origin of the story. I am the more willing to comply because I shall thus give a general answer to the question so very frequently asked me—how I, then a young girl, came to think of and to dilate upon so very hideous an idea.

Widowed at age twenty-four, she never remarried. It is thus indeed perhaps the very hiddenness of the question of femininity in Frankenstein that somehow proclaims the painful message not of female monstrousness but of female contradictions. For it is the fact of selfcontradiction that is so vigorously repressed in women. While the story of a man who is haunted by his own contradictions is representable as an allegory of monstrous doubles, how indeed would it have been possible for Mary to represent feminine contradiction from the point of view of its repression otherwise than precisely in the gap between angels of domesticity and an uncompleted monsteress, between the murdered Elizabeth and the dismembered Eve?

Unfortunately, this Bride of Deconstruction and Criticism never quite got off the ground, but it is surely no accident that the project was centered around monstrosity. ”3 After all, Aristotle, the founder of the law of gender as well as of the law of genre, considered the female the first distortion of the genus “man” en route to becoming a monster. ” Percy Bysshe Shelley is entombed in both, along with a certain male fantasy of Romantic universality. The only universality that remains in Mary Shelley’s last novel is the plague.

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