Patriarchal Fantasy and the Fecal Child in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and its Adaptations
John Rieder, University of Hawaii at Manoa
assigns the creature a female subject position (106) and May interprets
the creature, by way of Victor's nightmare, as his "sister-cousin-lover-mother"
(679). Knoepflmacher and Moers both stress Mary Shelley's experience of
childbirth. For Oedipal and negative-Oedipal readings, see the following
2 Of the many psychoanalytic readings available,
those I have benefited from most include Brooks, Kestner, Homans, Collings,
Veeder, and Hobbs.
sees Alphonse Frankenstein's death as the culmination of the sequence
of the creature's murders and as the ultimate goal of Victor's desire,
but also draws a sharp contrast between Alphonse and the "truly domineering"
M. Clerval (380). Hobbs stresses the way Alphonse enforces a code of emotional
restraint that Victor rebels against.
repeated references to filth have most often been connected to the topic
of masturbation, for instance in Eberle-Sinatra, 257; see also Grant,
120-21. Youngquist's reading of the response the creature inspires as
"a primitive and visceral disgust aroused by impurity" (345) comes much
closer to the present interpretation, but connects the disgust to a version
of female sexuality Shelley wants to place "beyond enculturated norms"
version of the Prometheus myth in which Prometheus shapes mankind from
clay adds another important instance to this set of allusions.
a clear and compelling exposition of the split between having the phallus
and bearing it, and on the traumatic instigation of this split, see Butler,
45-47. Within a Lacanian framework, one would not talk of castration anxiety's
onset coming at this late date in Hans's development. We would need to
speak instead of a reassignment of Hans's anxiety about lack, and of that
anxiety here acquiring a specific anatomical referent with a normative
social function. "Castration anxiety" throughout this essay is used in
this anatomically referential sense.
regards Hans's mother's "widdler," it is worthwhile remembering that in
Freud's essay on femininity he makes it clear that for a woman to gain
full genital maturity she must give up clitoral masturbation and instead
achieve vaginal orgasm. The notorious "extra task" assigned to women,
then, which Freud explains as the task of repressing identification with
the child's first, strongest, but, for girls, homosexual desire for possession
of the mother, has an unstated anatomical referent: clitorectomy (SE
22:117-18). The silent status of (symbolic or hysterical) clitorectomy,
as compared to the expansive theme of male castration, testifies eloquently
to the historical and ideological boundaries of Freud's version of normal
or mature genital sexuality.
Hobbs on male hysteria in Frankenstein, and Mullan, ch. 5 on male
hysteria in eighteenth-century medicine. On male hysteria and castration
anxiety, see Hertz.
the novel's critique of domesticity, see Ellis, and cf. the different
emphasis given to the De Lacey family as domestic ideal by Mellor, 221-23.
On the ending's "tacked-on" quality see Grant, 127, who also quotes Colin
Clive, the actor who played Henry Frankenstein, saying that he was supposed
to have been killed by the monster in the previous scene. The sequence
in which the monster strangles Frankenstein and then tosses his limp body
from the top of the windmill certainly supports Clive's testimony.
Although the "dissecting room and the slaughter house furnished many of
[Victor's] materials" (56), the notion of patching together fragments
of different individuals is entirely undeveloped in the novel (cf. Heffernan
144). In fact, it appears explicitly only in Peake's 1823 Another Piece
of Presumption, a parody of his own Presumption, where the
tailor Frankinstitch murders his apprentices and sews pieces of them together
to make the monster. The stitched-together, fragmented character of the
monster is of course one of the ruling commonplaces of twentieth-century
cinematic representationscf. the exploitation of the creature's
composite subjectivity in Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
and its development into a central motif of Shelley Jackson's hypertext
novel, Patchwork Girl.
On the more generalized influence of Frankenstein, see James's
concise summary, 77-80, with its excellent bibliographical references.
Cf. the first line of dialogue in Day of the Dead: "The shit's
really hit the fan."
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