- Tips for successful study
- Engaging with texts
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- Resources and further reading
- Doctor Faustus
- Great Expectations
- Hopkins' poetry
- Jane Eyre
- King Lear
- Measure for Measure
- Metaphysical poetry
- Owen's poetry
- Rossetti's poetry
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles
- The Handmaid's tale
- The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale
- The White Devil
- The Wife of Bath
- The Winter's Tale
- Wide Sargasso Sea
- Wuthering Heights
[Note: Many of the books listed here, especially those in the final section, ‘Criticism', have useful bibliographies which will guide you to further sources of information and ideas.]
Works by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein (1818 text) by Mary Shelley. Ed. Marilyn Butler. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994
Frankenstein (1818 text) by Mary Shelley. Ed. D. L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf. Peterborough Ontario; Broadview Press, 1994
Editions of the text on which this guide is based; both with useful editorial matter.
Frankenstein (1831 text) by Mary Shelley. Ed. Maurice Hindle. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985
The novel as revised by Mary Shelley for a new edition in 1831. A discussion of the differences between the 1818 and 1831 texts can be found in the section, Critical analysis: Reception: 1818; Revision: 1831
Frankenstein (1831 text) by Mary Shelley. Ed. Johanna Smith. London: Palgrave, 2000
Another edition of the revised version, together with a useful selection of recent critical essays.
The Last Man by Mary Shelley. Ware, Herts: Wordsworth Classics, 2004.
Another of Mary Shelley's novels, published in 1826, set in the late 21st century.
The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley by Mary Shelley. Ed. Betty T. Bennett. 3 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988
Mary Shelley's letters offer essential background to her life and ideas.
The Journals of Mary Shelley, 1814-1844 by Mary Shelley.Ed. Paula Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987
Another excellent source for understanding Mary Shelley's work in the context of her life.
Works by Mary Shelley's predecessors and contemporaries
Plutarch's Lives by Plutarch. (available in several volumes from Penguin Classics)
Paradise Lost by John Milton. Ed. John Leonard. London: Penguin Books, 2003
The Sorrows of Young Werther by J. W. von Goethe. Translated and ed. Michael Hulse. London: Penguin, 2006
The three classic texts that form the monster's education.
An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) by William Godwin. London: Penguin Books, 1985
Frankenstein contains numerous echoes of this important work by Mary Shelley's father.
Caleb Williams (1794) by William Godwin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
Novel by Mary Shelley's father that makes an interesting comparison with Frankenstein.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Penguin Books, 1992
This significant work by Mary Shelley's mother had an influence on the ideas expressed in Frankenstein.
The Major Works by Lord Byron. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
The Major Works by Samuel Taylor.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
The Major Works by P B Shelley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003
Mary Shelley knew all three of these poets and refers to or quotes from their work in Frankenstein.
The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse by Jerome J. McGann.Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1993
Excellent, wide-ranging anthology that presents the period in a fresh light.
Romanticism: an Anthology by Duncan Wu. 3rd edition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005
Comprehensive and helpful anthology which includes both prose and poetry by Mary Shelley's contemporaries.
Shelley: the Pursuit by Richard Hughes. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson,
1974. Penguin Books, 1987
The most recent standard biography.
Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters by Anne Mellor. London: Routledge, 1988
Comprehensive and detailed biography, together with a full discussion of Shelley's literary achievement.
Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour.London: John Murray, 2000
Another good and detailed biography.
The Godwins and the Shelleys by William St Clair.London: Faber & Faber, 1989
Very useful for the way in which it sets Mary Shelley in a family context.
The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft by Claire Tomalin.London: Penguin Books, 1992
Excellent biographical and intellectual study of Mary Shelley's mother.
Context and background
Gothic by Fred Botting. London, Routledge, 1996
Extremely helpful and informative short introduction.
Romantics, Rebels and Revolutionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760-1830 by Marilyn Butler. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981
Excellent introduction to the general context of Romanticism.
Romanticism by Aidan Day. London: Routledge, 1996
Short and clear introduction to this complex topic.
A Handbook to English Romanticism Jean Raimond and J. R. Watson (eds). London: Macmillan, 1992
Useful work of reference, with entries on many of the figures mentioned or discussed in this guide.
In Frankenstein's Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and Nineteenth Century Writing by Chris Baldick.Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987
Shows how the image of the monster was used in later 19th-century culture.
Frankenstein. Contemporary Critical Essays Fred Botting (ed). Macmillan, 1995
Excellent collection of essays offering readings of the novel from a wide range of critical viewpoints.
Women's Gothic: from Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley by E. J. Clery. London: Northcote Press, 2000
Places Frankenstein in the context of this influential genre.
Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present by Steven E. Forry.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990
Survey and discussion of the cinematic adaptations of the novel.
The Madwoman in the Attic: the Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Imagination by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979
Classic feminist discussion of the novel.
English Fiction of the Romantic Period 1789-1830 by Gary Kelly. London: Longman, 1989
Includes a brief discussion of Frankenstein in a wider cultural and literary context.
Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature by Susan E. Lederer.Piscataway, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2002
Explores the origins of Frankenstein and its impact on popular culture.
The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel George Levine and Ursula C. Knoepflmacher (eds). Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1979
Extremely useful and wide-ranging collection of critical essays.
A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Tim Morton. London: Routledge, 2002.
Very helpful and informative collection of contextual material.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Criticism Berthold Schoene-Harwood (ed). London: Palgrave, 2000
Survey of the critical response, from publication to the present day.
The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley by Esther Schor.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003
Collection of essays on all aspects of Mary Shelley's life and career.
Mary Shelley by Muriel Spark. London: Constable, 1988
Study of Mary Shelley's writing in the context of her life; interesting because written by a distinguished novelist.
A Mary Shelley Encyclopedia by Staci L. Stone.Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2003
Another useful reference book.
[Note: Remember that websites – including this one – are secondary resources like any other. It is important to check the source of the site and to find out about the author(s). Also, remember that any material you draw from the site should be clearly referenced in essays or project work.]
- Offers a guide to the range of available internet resources on Mary Shelley's life and work; maintained by the University of Calgary in Canada; an excellent starting-point.
- Wide-ranging site offering material on everything from films to comic versions of the novel.
- This leads to an on-line journal in the Romantic Circles Praxis series, with many articles and essays on Frankenstein; other parts of the site deal with numerous aspects of the Romantic period.
- Website based on an exhibition held at the American National Museum of Medicine in 1997-98; offers particularly interesting illustrations.
- Extremely useful general site, which offers the texts of many poems and other works from the period.
- Text of Mary Shelley's 1826 novel The Last Man.
- The site of an American museum of electricity, with many images of its special display on Frankenstein and of nineteenth-century scientific instruments; also some helpful biographical material.
Frankenstein on film
Film adaptations and derivatives of Frankenstein are very common, as the following list makes clear, and they were produced with a number of different audiences in mind. But, whoever they may be aimed at, their number is a clear indication of the extent to which Shelley's novel has entered the popular consciousness.
The obvious question to ask about any adaptation is
How faithful is this to the original?
Although it is interesting, and sometimes amusing to identify what is omitted or changed, there are other, more challenging, questions to be asked. Some, for instance, concern the history and structure of the film industry:
Why was this film made at this time?
Who were its likely viewers?
What were the motives of the studio and the director?
What significance is there in the casting of the various roles?
Perhaps the most important questions relate to the way in which the story is interpreted, and here the answers to that original question about fidelity to the original can be reformulated as new questions:
Why might the director have omitted some parts of the plot (including some characters)?
Are there any ‘new' characters or incidents? Why are they in the film?
How is the story interpreted? Where does the emphasis lie?
How are the characters presented? Are they shown as more or less sympathetic than in the novel? Why?
What might the director's interpretation tell us about contemporary attitudes towards the issues raised by the novel, such as the origins of life, scientific ethics, the argument between reason and faith and the meaning of being human?
Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. 1931
The Bride of Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. 1935
Regarded as the classic adaptations from the novel, both starring Boris Karloff as the monster – an image that has become closely associated with the novel, even though it bears little resemblance to the creature created by Frankenstein. The second film, which includes a scene between Byron and Mary Shelley, is particularly effective.
Son of Frankenstein. Dir. Rowland V. Lee. 1939
Following the success of Whale's films, Karloff again plays the monster and is joined by Bela Lugosi, another great horror film actor, as Frankenstein's mad assistant.
The Ghost of Frankenstein. Dir. Erle C. Kenton. 1942
Sequel to Son of Frankenstein, but with the cinema's third great portrayer of monsters, Lon Chaney, as Frankenstein's creation.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Dir. Roy William Neill. 1943
Offers two monsters for the price of one and brings together Chaney and Lugosi, who at last is able to play the monster, a part he always coveted.
The Curse of Frankenstein. Dir. Terence Fisher. 1957
The Evil of Frankenstein. Dir. Freddie Francis, 1964
Frankenstein Created Woman. Dir. Terence Fisher. 1966
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Dir. Terence Fisher. 1969
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. Dir. Terence Fisher. 1973
A series of productions from the Hammer studio, famous for its horror films. Peter Cushing, who starred in many British horror films, plays Frankenstein in all five films.
The Horror of Frankenstein Dir. Jimmy Sangster. 1970 (EMI)
A loose British adaptation of the novel, with a title that suggests its intended audience.
Flesh for Frankenstein. Dir. Paul Morrisey. 1973
Directed by an associate of the radical American artist Andy Warhol; predictably exploitative.
Frankenstein: the True Story. Dir. Jack Smight. 1973
Originally shown on American TV in a longer version; fairly sensationalised, but makes use of the climax in the Arctic, shunned by many other film-makers.
The Rocky Horror Show. Dir. Jim Sharman. 1974
An entertaining cult movie that draws heavily on the myth of Frankenstein.
Young Frankenstein. Dir. Mel Brooks. 1975
Refreshingly comic version in which Gene Wilder decides to repeat his grandfather's experiment.
Gothic. Dir. Ken Russell. 1986
- Dramatisation of the situation at the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816, when Frankenstein was conceived and begun; not to be relied upon for historical accuracy!
Haunted Summer. Dir. Ivan Passer. 1988
Another film set in the summer of 1816.
Frankenstein Unbound. Dir. Roger Corman. 1990
Unsatisfactory adaptation of Brian Aldiss's novel (1974) of the same title.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. 1994
Most recent attempt at a ‘serious' adaptation of the novel; highly melodramatic, irritating and sometimes unintentionally comic, but very stylish.
Gods and Monsters. Dir. Bill Condon. 1998
Biographical study of the last days of James Whale, director of the two original Frankenstein films, with many flashbacks.
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