[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

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.

Website resources

[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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