Blog Post 3: Critical Responses

Hi everyone,

Very nice job finishing up Frankenstein today — we laid out all sorts of interesting narrative and thematic ground to explore in the coming weeks. Our second week with the novel next week takes us into some materials related to Shelley’s text as a way of multiplying and expanding how we might think about it. For Monday, we’ll read two critical essays related to the novel, Devon Hodges’ “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel” and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” We’ll spend some time Monday thinking about these two essays in terms of the novel, but also as our first models of critical writing on fiction — we’ll think about how they respond to the novel and how we might respond in turn to their thinking and claims.

So for this blog post, you should start to do some of that thinking in your writing: for each article, you should pick one claim to engage: a passage of a few sentences that seems important or significant in terms of the author’s overall thinking about the novel or about monsters and literature overall. In your post, you should write a paragraph for each article — in each paragraph, you should quote your chosen claim directly, paraphrase it (explain it in your own best language), and then engage and respond to it. What seems important about the claim you’ve chosen? Do you agree with it or not? Why/why not? What issues does it raise, and why are those significant? Try to be as specific, in-depth, and thoughtful as you can in how you engage them — beyond simply agreeing or disagreeing with each author, try to respond in a way that continues and extends a conversation with them, bringing your own ideas and arguments to the table in dialogue with them.

This is our first foray into critical scholarly material, so I’m interested to see how everyone approaches it — enjoy, and let me know if you have questions as you’re working on it!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by midnight on Sunday, September 18th. After class on Monday, you should return to this thread and post a response to one classmate’s post by class time Wednesday the 21st. If you have any questions, let me know via email.


28 thoughts on “Blog Post 3: Critical Responses

  1. Hodges’ article analyzes Shelley’s novel from a feminist perspective, suggesting that the way the novel is written challenges patriarchal ideas of grammar and sequence. The novel is said to be a “feminine novel” (Hodges, 2) despite being written in three different male voices. The novel is criticized for disobeying the “conventions of patriarchal narrative” (3) of sequence, finality, and integrity because of its enframed, epistular format. Sequentially the novel is entirely out of order, and not one but three unreliable narrators question the integrity of the storyline. The article addresses the juxtaposition of an allegedly feminist novel with only male narrators, in which the main females are seen only as objects to attain through marriage and are killed. It’s hard for me to get behind the idea of Frankenstein being a novel promoting feminism because of the sole purpose of Elizabeth and the female monster existing in the novel to be used by Victor and the monster to inflict pain and revenge on each other. Elizabeth is the classic feminine long-suffering cousin/wife for Victor, who does nothing to advance the novel’s plot besides being available to marry and be killed. The female monster never even lives, but her sole purpose for being made was to solve a problem, like Victor’s marriage to Elizabeth. Both females exist and die and the men (Victor and the monster) continue to struggle against each other.
    Cohen’s essay procures an interesting selection of analyses of the role of monsters in literature. They represent exotic sexual fantasies, escapism, romanticizing danger, exploration, and divergence from social normality. Geographically, monsters are created by the “Outside, the Beyond” (Cohen, 5) of social norms, and defy “traditional methods of organizing knowledge and human experience” (4). I agree most with Thesis IV, tying the creation of a monster with “the phenomenon of the scapegoat” (6), exaggerating social issues into one solid creature that can be feared and hated. The idea of a monster being created to explore a sexual taboo, specifically incest, doesn’t really apply to Frankenstein because of the human incest that actually happens between Victor and Elizabeth, disregarding the possibility of a sexual Oedipus complex between Victor and his monster. This essay really effectively explores the ideas and situations from which monsters are created and the part of humanity that they represent.


    • Rebekah Clapham

      I agree with your statement that Frankenstein “is criticized for disobeying the ‘conventions of patriarchal narrative’ (3).” This was interesting to compare to Patchwork Girl’s narrative and set up. To me, Patchwork Girl is an even more distorted narrative and simultaneously a more overtly feminist piece of writing. It seems to me that Jackson is furthering what Shelley was trying to do by making a disruptive narrative structure to make a feminist statement. The extremities of Jackson’s writing style demonstrate how much further feminism has come. The style expresses the advancement in freedom women have in writing while it also highlights there is still need for improvement.
      I also want to respond to your comment about how in Frankenstein “the main females are seen only as objects to attain through marriage and are killed.” Comparing this detail with the female characters in Patchwork Girl, further indicates that Jackson is attempting to replicate what Shelley did, but in more extreme ways that reflect the modern time. The purpose of the women in Patchwork Girl was not to get married or to be killed. Mary is represented as unhappy with/ not fulfilled by her marriage. The monster has no desire to get married. In fact, Jackson introduces a lesbian relationship between the two—suggesting that the women do not need men in their lives at all. These female characters are also different, as they are not killed. The monster is even made up of the body parts of others suggesting she is more powerful.
      It is also implied Mary and her monster are much stronger than Victor and his monster. While Mary technically becomes like a monster herself (physically sewing on a part of the monster to her body) she is strengthened by the experience. Victor becomes mentally like the monster—seeking vengeance and death–and he destroys himself in the process. Relatedly, Mary and her monster spend a lot of time a part and continue to live well while the monster and Victor spend their whole lives chasing each other, fixated on being together. Not only does this suggest Mary and her monster have a healthier relationship but that Victor and his monster are much weaker.
      Lastly, it is interesting to consider Cohen’s point about how monsters are created by the “Outside, the Beyond” (Cohen, 5). Mary’s monster was created from within, rather than Outside—she gave life to a monster through her writing. It is also a significant move to make Shelley the creator of the female monster. This gives her equal power and responsibility to the men in her novel—responsibility and power that she handles much better than they do. Shelley’s writing coming to life also reflects how Shelley is the true creator in Frankenstein creating not just the monster in the book, but Victor and all the other characters as well—characters full of passion, freedom, power, and creativity.


  2. Jessica Pavia
    Blog Post 3

    Looking at Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, in a more feminist view (important to note Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, birthed the feminist idea) as in Devon Hodge’s “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel,” the monster becomes a bodily form of the cultural displacement felt by women. Hodges writes that “[The monster] articulates the possible options of the woman who writes in order to express herself but finds that her culture imposes, in its very codes, an obstacle to feminine self-expression” (Hodges 7). This passage reminded me of the scene when the monster tries to introduce himself to the DeLacey family. Going against the ‘accepted’ monster design, Frankenstein’s creature is eloquent and well educated, and speaks to the blind father as an equal. It is only when the creature’s bodily form is revealed that the family treats him as a monster. “Like the monster, woman in a patriarchal society,” stated by Hodges can only be present “…so that she can be defined as a lack, a mutilated body that must be repressed to enable men to…maintain their mastery” (7). Meaning, if a woman is not a woman, that is writing in a male narrative or “as a male,” then her voice will be heard. It is only when the narrative becomes obviously written by a feminine voice, that the assimilation into the male dominated genre stops. Shelley, by writing in multiple male narratives, exists both inside and outside her text. She has written every narration, but by making the narratives in letters by men to women, she allows her male narratives to tell the story. Because of this, Shelley is like the monster: worthy to be in the culture, but forced to hide because of her physical appearance.

    This idea is furthered, however not as feminist-centered, in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” when Cohen explains his third thesis: “The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis.” In this passage, Cohen says “The monster always escapes because it refuses categorization. […] And so the monster is dangerous, a form suspended between forms that threatens to smash distinctions” (Cohen 3). Because the monster is neither the stereotypical, brain-dead creature nor completely innocent, we, as readers, cannot pin Frankenstein’s monster into a single, simple category. Shelley’s monster exists in his own right; as women do. Shelley’s existence as the author of such a controversial novel goes against what was known of women in the 18th century, in the way “the monster’s very existence is a rebuke to boundary and enclosure” (4). Dr. Frankenstein would then represent the patriarch society common in the 18th century, as well as now. The moment Frankenstein created his monster, the monster became victim to Frankenstein, to societal boundaries. And then when his monster wants to have a wife and create his own society where he can be accepted, Frankenstein refuses and tears up the female body, and the monster’s hope, right in front of the monster. Women and monsters are side effects of their societies. When the monster first found the DeLacey family, he saw them to be the kindest and most beautiful. It is only when the society attacks him that he becomes a monster. It was easier for him to become what society wanted him to be than to prove them wrong. Shelley is making a statement here about womanhood and feminism; about how society fears strong women, proud of who they are, when the patriarchy is the reason they have to exist in the first place.


  3. Rebekah Clapham

    In Devon Hodges’ article “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel” the passage that particularly struck me was on page 7 when he writes

    “The monster, not Shelley’s stereotypic female characters, is the figure of this deformed and deforming text. He articulates the possible options of the woman who writes in order to express herself but finds that her culture imposes, in its very codes, an obstacle to feminine self-expression…Like the monster, woman in a patriarchal society is defined as an absence, an enigma, mystery, or crime, or she is allowed to be a presence only so that she can be defined as a lack, a mutilated body that must be repressed to enable men to join the symbolic order and maintain their mastery.”

    Hodges is arguing that the monster represents women’s lack of voice, presence and respect in society during Shelley’s time. The only way women can fit in, and be listened to is by conforming and repressing themselves so men still feel in control and in power. In other words, the monster represents the cultural inequality of men and women and the pressure women feel to be submissive in a patriarchal society. I agree with this statement, I think Shelley tactfully used the monster to make larger claims about social issues. Like the monster, women are not accepted and respected in society (more so in Shelley’s life span) because of the way they were born/something they cannot change about themselves and have to make themselves appear weaker, non-threatening, passive and harmless to be able to make men feel more secure and in control. This can be seen in Frankenstein when the monster is made an outcast based on his appearance just because the men of the novel (Victor, Felix, William etc.) feel threatened and less powerful in his presence. The monster attempting to fit in with the society by dressing himself, learning a language to communicate, begging the old man for help, and trying to make social connections seems similar to women trying to change themselves (their appearance, mannerisms, opinions, personalities) to fit their assigned role in a patriarchal society, and rely on men for help while making the men feel powerful.
    Jeffery Jerome Cohen makes a similar argument in his article “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” On page 1 he states

    “The monstrous body is pure culture. A construct and a projection, the monster exists only to be read… like a letter on the page, the monster signifies something other than itself: it is always a displacement, always inhabits the gap between the time of upheaval that created it and the moment into which it is received, to be born again.”

    Cohen contends that the monster is a reflection of the culture in which it was created and a social commentary on its existing problems. The monster could be interpreted as a commentary on a wide variety of social issues. Women’s unequal, repressed role in society as discussed in Hodge’s article is one problem it addresses. I think the monster and his relationship with Victor could be a critic of relationships during that time period—specifically a critic of the typical, set-up heterosexual relationship. Both the monster’s and Victor’s expected, “meant-to-be” relationships with the opposite sex fail, and fail in extreme ways (destruction and death). There is also a suggestion that Victor and the monster are the ones truly in a relationship. This unusual pairing between Victor and the monster strikes me as a way to challenge the traditional heterosexual relationship norm. I also think the monster is a representation of the good and evil of human nature. The monster physically signifies Victor’s own soul and inner conflicts and the monster has both bad and good in him. Ultimately it is the way society responds to the monster that turns the monster mostly, if not all, evil. This seems to be a criticism of the way culture and society responds to difference, but it is also symbolic of the varying degrees of human goodness. On page 219 in Frankenstein there is a quote that says, “the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil.” The monster says this, referring to himself, but it could also be applied to Victor, as all the spirit, goodness, and passion for knowledge, Victor had in him died when he dedicated his life to destruction and death. Thus, the monster represents large social issues, but can also be symbolic of personal, individual human issues.


    • I agree with what you have said, and want to add to your argument. You suggest that woman have an unequal role to play in this society’s time and that is true. In the novel as well we see that all the female characters are repressed roles and they do not even speak in some cases like Margaret. I believe this is significant because this shows a similar argument to what you were making. Woman are seen as unequal and one way that Shelley pushes back against that isn’t with an iron fist, but with the male characters being seen as erratic and mad while the female characters are composed and seen as the calm and ground the men as we see with all the men, with exception to Walton, wanting a woman to feel normal again.


    • I like the points you make here. This using of each other, of gender and societal roles, of women seems to be at the crux of Shelley’s subversion. I wonder if there’s an extent to which Victor and the monster play so haphazardly with those roles, filling them and relying on them, then ignoring them or combating them, that their own potential to fit into those roles warps and corrupts more and more over time. Surely, the manner of the build up of this corruption over time is Shelley’s tool in crafting her message.


  4. Devon Hodges’s article reflects upon the significance of Shelley being a female writer and how that changes some interpretations of the underlying themes in Frankenstein. Hodges explains that there are feminist undertones, though many critics think Shelley pushes her female characters off to the sidelines and lets male characters dominate the story. The reason why Shelley makes the female characters seem insignificant may be a statement of how men are the dominant sex, however their dominance is monstrous. Shelley has to write for a male-dominated culture, therefore her language is repressed and not as prominently feminist as some people believe a “woman’s book” should be. Hodges explains this when stating, “Her [Shelley’s] problem might be stated this way: the woman writer desires to take advantage of opportunities to express herself, yet the language and codes of patriarchal culture impose yet another silence on her. As Mary Jacobus writes, ‘access to a male-dominated culture may be felt to bring with it alienation, repression, division—a silencing of the ‘feminine,’ a loss of women’s ‘inheritance’” (Hodges 2). Shelley has to write under the “codes of patriarchal culture,” though that does not mean her novel is anti-feminist. The silence of her female characters actually enhances the idea that male domination is suppressive and literally murders women and children (Justine, Elizabeth, and William are all murdered due to male control). Shelley is suggesting that male dominance is monstrous.

    Jeffrey Cohen’s article leads me to believe that Shelley did enjoy writing as a male character, even though her novel is a possible feminist statement. Writing as a male monster is an acceptable way for Shelley to experience and explore what it is like to be dominant, because the characters are fictitious. Shelley can live through the eyes of a monster, who is even more dominant than a human man, which is a gratifying escape as a woman. Cohen explains this further by stating “…the monstrous offers an escape from its hermetic path, and invitation to explore new spirals, new and interconnected methods of perceiving the world” (Cohen 4). Fictional writing allows the author to have an escape from their own worlds, however writing as a monster specifically “offers an escape from its hermetic path,” meaning it is the most freeing character to explore when escaping the tight constrictions of female social construction. The monster allows Shelley to experience the world as a dominating creature, more dominating than man, while actually critiquing the male perspective at the same time. Shelley’s novel is an interesting combination of her fascination with male dominance and the feminist critique of its monstrosity.


    • It’s interesting that you bring up the idea of Mary Shelly escaping her own world through writing through her characters, and particularly the monster. Patchwork Girl works in a way that portrays “Herself”, the main character of the story, as its own creator. In the story section, “Herself” mentions how she was created by Mary in Frankenstein, but did not want what the monster wanted, and thus Mary faked her own death and rose her into reality. Here, Mary is literally inserted as a character into her own work as an escape from the male dominated world, where she is the creator of society. She freed “Herself” from the demands of patriarchy. “Herself” points out how she remembers how the “real Mary” had to hide her “monstrous” views inside the layers of her text, and Patchwork Girl acts as a platform to describe how Shelly’s writings acted as a conceptual place where Mary could roam free and undermine reality.


    • I agree with your point, most of the dominate characters in Frankenstein are male figures, while some female characters are on the sideline or dead, which makes me to believe it is Shelley’s subtle way of surrendering to the dominate male culture. Shelley’s attempt to disrupt the “patriarchal” culture by straying from the normal structure of a novel that common elements such as resolution, closure, and sequence are omitted can be viewed as Shelley’s attempt to show us the anxiety and fear female writers experience from entering into a new world. The fact that most of the female characters in Frankenstein have little substance compared to men, Shelley is also questioning the role of women in our society. Victor’s ambition to create a monster that eliminates the role of mother figure and his decision to omit his female creation suggests men’s are more prioritized than female. Through out the novel, Shelley positions her female characters so passive and subjects them to such ill treatment to call attention to obsessive and destructive behavior that Victor and the creature exhibit, advocating male dominance is monstrous, as you said.

      I also agree with your intake on the monster lifting Shelley’s desire to fit in and experience masculine identity. The monster provided Shelley freedom and paved the path to write creatively and as manly as she can with slight anxiety of entering into an alien system. The monster’s desire to be accepted and fit in in the novel could be perceived as a symbol for female writers to be accepted into the male dominated culture.


  5. Iona Herriott
    Blog Post #3

    In Devon Hodges’ ” Frankenstein and the Feminine subversion of the Novel” ,Hodges analyzes Shelley’s brilliant methods of displaying a woman’s role in a social hierarchy. He raises several interesting points and raises a question that stayed with me when reading the passage,” What then is a woman writer to do?” How is a woman to speak or create something like this in a time when she was hidden in her father’s or husbands shadow? While reading this piece I had to wonder, what if the characters in Frankenstein are the fiction embodiment of the men in her life with the exception of the “monster” who in this case would be the author, Shelley. On page three of the article Hodges pulls a particular line from the Introduction that references Shelly not being confined to her own identity. Could it be, as many writers of fiction do, that she inserted herself as the monster because even in the shadows of writing , she was more powerful than her “creators” cared to admit and acknowledge. On page 7, Hodges talks about the contrast between the monster and Shelly’s “stereotypical female character” and even references the need for companionship from the monster. I would beg to differ and suggest that the monster is more like the female characters than the male characters in the novel. the need to communicate with and understand the world they are living in, living in isolation (whether from deformity or seeking refuge) and even be the object of their “creator’s” affection or pride. Even so much to the point where when the monster cannot get it from his maker he seeks out other companions.
    Jefferey Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” enables this train of thought even further. In the first thesis(Para. 2, Line 3) he speaks about the body of the monster inciting fear , desire etc. Is that not something that often female characters strike some form emotion in both their readers but their fellow male characters as well. In Frankenstein , did not Victor fear FOR Elizabeth and fear the monsters rage as well? When a female writer creates work, what is she to do but cause a stir? His forth thesis ” The monster dwells at the Gates of difference ” references Frankenstein directly and his monsters desire to destroy the world created to bar it away from society, speaks on that “stir”. While it is easy for women to be displayed as ” exotic”, ” sexy” and ” graceful” , when they create things that speak on the injustices that women suffer in social hierarchies , they become to those they threaten” monstrous”.


    • I think that your assertion of Mary Shelley inserting herself into the novel as the monster is extremely fascinating. I completely agree with you and Hodges, in that she was striving to communicate the role women play in the social hierarchy, I just never considered how it could be Shelley’s own personal reaction to the role women play in the literary world. I already like how you discuss the role that fear conveys through both the novel and in life. Possibly Mary Shelley wanted the role of women to be portrayed as a monster, because it is the way women authors were viewed whenever they were to promote a work of literature in that time. Literature represents intelligence— which women at the time were rarely praised for. An intelligent woman in the 19th century might as well have been a monster in the eyes of men.


  6. Cohen speaks about many different aspects of culture that the monster represents, but one that stood out to me is the last thesis.
    “Monsters are our children. They can be pushed to the furthest margins of geography and discourse, hidden away at the edges of the world and in the forbidden recessed of our mind, but they always return. And when they come back, they bring not just a fuller knowledge of our place in history ad the history of knowing our place, but they bear self knowledge, human knowledge and a discourse all the more sacred as it arises from the Outside. These monsters ask us how we perceive the world, and how we have mis represented what we have attempted to play. They ask us to reevaluate our cultural assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, our perception of difference, our tolerance toward its expression. They ask us why we have created them.” (Cohen Page 11)
    He says here that monsters are ever present in this day of age and no matter how far we push them they come back and ask us questions on how we can better ourselves and the people around us. These monsters my not look like 8 foot creatures of horror, but in the end they were our creation and now are our problems as a society to deal with. I agree with this idea because, as we see in the book “Frankenstein” the monster does not ever quite get the answers he is looking for in life and his appearance challenges the perception of what people think is normal looking or behavior for a person. The monster is constantly attacked for being different and he questions Victor many times why he was made, only for the sack of bringing life into the world and having this achievement marked in his book. Victor thought nothing of what the monster would want or have to deal with until reality/ the monster came back to explain to Victor all the wrong doings it has done. The monster tries and change our perception of difference, but he is beaten back and in doing so creates a new monster that hunts for the destruction of Victor’s family like when he says, “I will be with you on your wedding night.”.
    Hodges speaks about more of the feminine aspects of the novel and one point she makes peaked my interest.
    “And though much of the novel she adopts a male voice while assigning her self-effacing female characters to a marginal position. In this way, her novel reproduced the traditional opposition of masculinity and feminine, speech and silence, that makes so paradoxical the position of the women who writes: if speech is associated with masculinity, then a woman must lose her identity in order to make self-expression possible. But perhaps in adopting a male voice, the woman writer is given the opportunity to intervene from within, to become an alien presence that undermines the stability of the male voice.” (Hodges Page 3)
    He is saying in lamer terms that the female writer is putting the female characters to the side for her story and focusing on the male voice. She is taking over the male voice of Walton, Victor, and the monster to undermine the masculinity that goes along with them from the inside. She has to write from a males perspective to get her point across though. I agree with the idea that of this time period, woman did not have the same values and rights that they had today so Shelley did represent the woman, but to do that she had to make men seem much more worse off than the sane characters of the women of the novel. Every girl in the novel takes a back seat and is of sane mind. They anchor the male characters even to the point that the only way the monster thinks he will ever be happy is if he is with another female creation of his own. So yes, Shelley has to put on a new face, but this is the only way of critiquing the masculinity of men at the time and pushing for a more feminine world.


    • I really liked your interpretation of why Shelley speaks solely through male narrators, even though at face value it seems paradoxical to call her novel feminist because of that. Shelley is presenting herself as an author in the only way she can to be non-threatening and readable at the time. The few females in the novel are not really central characters, but they do hold a certain voice of reason, especially when compared to Victor’s incredulous antics. The outcomes of the female characters, while unjust, make them a victim to different forms of patriarchy, Justine through the judicial system, and Elizabeth at the hands of masculine revenge and objectification.


  7. Devon Hodges’ article “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel,” is about how Mary Shelly uses feminism in her novel Frankenstein. Hodges states that “but perhaps in adopting a male voice, the woman writer is given the opportunity to intervene from within, to become an alien presence that undermines the stability of the male voice” (Hodges 3). He is essentially saying that in order for Shelly to have her views and ideas be accepted, she must use a male narrator or in this case three male narrators. I agree that this statement is true because in the early 19th century, a woman’s main role was to stay at home and raise children. If she had written from a female voice, her ideas would have gone nowhere and her work would be futile. Another point to look at is when Hodges compares women to the monster in a patriarchal society. Woman are present in order to give men power which, is the main reason why men want to have a wife. This point is clearly evident when the monster wants a female companion to be created in order for him to feel complete. In other words, fix his problem of being emasculated by society so he can have power over someone.

    Jeffery Cohen writes a series of theses in which he describes the role of monsters in literary works. In Thesis VII, he states how we are the creators of monsters (Cohen 11) meaning that they learn their way of life from observing human behavior. If we wanted to get rid of them, we wouldn’t be able to no matter how hard we tried. If we try to get rid of them, they come back even smarter because they learned from us. In Frankenstein, Victor created a monster and then tried to make the monster leave civilization. The monster was able to learn on his own how humans behaved in society and then came back looking for his Victor to create him a wife. I believe it’s true that monsters are created to show us that there are flaws in our society that are overlooked most of the time which may be why feminism was used in Shelly’s novel.


    • Hey Andrew-
      In your first paragraph responding to Hodges’s quote, you interpret his words to mean that Shelley has to use a male voice in order for her book to be read and well respected. Though I agree with you, I believe that Hodges’s argument says something a little different than what you and I are thinking. He says that when a woman adopts a male voice, she can play with it, undermine it, until it no longer sounds stable. Shelley thoughtfully manipulates the male characters in Frankenstein by constructing their identities to seem monstrous, dominating, and scary. When writing as male characters, Shelley is able change the reader’s perceptions of them by portraying them in a negative light. I believe Hodges’s argument about why this is a “woman’s book” stems from the fact that Shelley portrays men in a monstrous manner.

      As for Cohen’s article, you touch upon how humans are the creators of monsters, but we cannot get rid of them because they learn from other human beings. Though Cohen is not responding to Hodges’s article, do you think that Cohen’s argument can be tied into the fact that Shelley uses feminist undertones as Hodges suggests? Why do you think that all the characters wants to destroy Victor’s monster? The monster is hurting family, women, and children. If the monster symbolizes masculinity, at least through the eyes of Cohen, then I think that Shelley is trying to say that everyone would benefit from a society without dominance and patriarchy, including men themselves. All the characters acknowledge the pain and oppression the monster inflicts upon others, which is why they are persistent about destroying it. One can say that Shelley masks her female identity through her male characters, but uses this mask to show that the patriarchy is oppressive.


    • Hey Andrew! I agree with the two major points you presented in your first analysis! Especially after our class discussion, I truly feel like because of the position that women took in society during the early 19th century, the only way that Shelley could get her voice across is through having male narrators. I would also add on that once she took this first step, she then deconstructed these narrators, and their narratives, as means to distort the patriarchal narrative that was dominant in literature. The second point you made was that is that the monster is an allegory for women in the male-dominant society. I completely agree with you, and again, would like to add that the fact that he is “a monster” also speaks to the manner in which women are treated within this society—ostracized, neglected, undermined, and repressed. The monster is treated in this very same manner and thus, serves as a perfect representation of women in society. Finally, I would like to say that the point you brought up, about the fact that the monster asks for a wife, is very interesting and it does exemplifying perfectly the way in which men treat women as materials means to achieve happiness.


  8. In Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel” by Devon Hodges dives deep into how women encounter patriarchal situations throughout the book. Specifically, he realizes that, “feminists have long been aware that the women voice is muted in a patriarchal culture”(2). In other words, Hodges realizes that women know that they were not heard in many situations when the book was written because it was a male dominated society. ON this issue, I agree with the author because women were housewives and weren’t able to get jobs or vote just because the Declaration of Independence said “men”. Its important to keep in mind that this book was written in 1818 because that was the time where women had absolutely no say in the household, family-wise or in the government. Therefore, the “patriarchal culture” was prominent in the book and in reality in 1818.
    In, “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”, Jeffery Jerome Cohen gives 7 different theses about how monsters serve as a “cultural purpose”(1) in book. One thesis that was interesting to me was number 4 because Cohen states that the difference in monsters, “tend to be cultural, political, racial, economic,sexual”(5). This means that there are other differences between monsters and humans other than physical attributes that people notice when they first notice the monster. I agree with this because there are other aspects of monsters that are deeper than their physical attributes. These characteristics are important because they reflect some of the struggles that were occurring in the 1800s. All of the characteristics listed above were all issues masked as attributes of a monster that was real issues in the 1800s.


    • Hey Maurice
      I agree what you are saying that women did not have much of a say during the time the book was written. I believe the real reason why feminism may have been used in Frankenstein because in the end, all of the characters seemed to be nothing without a woman by their side, which is why towards the end of the book Frankenstein was getting married and the monster wanted a wife created. More over I believe that Frankenstein and the monster wanted a wife was because both seemed to be powerless, and having a woman in their life gives them power over someone since women had very little rights at the time.


  9. Hodges’ critique of the monster’s representation in Frankenstein opens my eyes to how important it is to note that the author, Shelley, is writing as a female in the early 19th century. This idea is normalized for us now— many women find themselves on the New York Times bestseller list, and a majority of the students in my Literature classes include female students. I realize now how Frankenstein is not just a novel— it is a novel written by a women, in the voice of three men. Hodges’ states: “The monster, not Shelley’s stereotypic female characters, is the figure of this deformed and deforming text. He articulates the possible options of the woman who writes in order to express herself but finds that her culture imposes, in its very codes, an obstacle to feminine self-expression” (7). Hodges is claiming that in order to have a voice Shelley had to change it to be the voice of a man. The monster is a physical embodiment of female oppression in the early 19th century. In my opinion, this detail is crucial, because it is Shelley’s burden of vision in which she is trying to communicate to society. Through the portrayal of both the monster, and the way in which society (and Victor) treat him, Shelley is eager for readers to recognize how immense of a weight the oppression of women holds, how exactly it is affecting the world, and how it may affect their future.

    Cohen’s assertion of the monster’s role in literature is an interesting take on how we can reason the monster’s purpose in the novel. Cohen states: “We distrust and loathe the monster at the same time we envy its freedom, and perhaps its sublime despair…the monster can function as an alter ego, as an alluring projection of (an Other) self” (9). I think that Cohen’s commentary reflects the relationship between Victor and the monster adequately. Victor claims to despise the monster, but it also seems as if he is perhaps jealous of his ability to ostracize himself from society. The monster physically projects Victor’s inner qualities, such as his ability to disconnect from society, and the ability for an obsession over a specific pursuit may cause destruction.


    • I agree with the idea that the monster represents the female oppression during the 19th century because he inadvertently experiences all of the struggles that the women struggled through when the society was mainly patriarchal. You brought up a point that I never thought about which was how Shelly used 3 men’s voices to communicate how oppressed women were and the only way to communicate this message was to take on a voice of men which was all anyone ever listened too. Therefore, Hodges realized that the monster exemplified what female oppression was in the 19th century which connects to the patriarchal society that was once heavily controlled by men.


  10. In Devon Hodge’s essay, “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel” he writes that, “In Frankenstein, the unity of the subject is subverted by the presence of multiple narrators . . . Each of these men is an image of the others – all are wandering creatures who are in someway deviant,” (3). The three men are all abnormal duplicates of one another, and the sequence in which their stories are told only highlights this concept. Frankenstein begins with Walton, a normal man who craves interaction and friendship just as every human being; Walton is relatable. Even with Victor, he is relatable, both men face isolation in hopes of finding something greater than themselves. However, the outcome of Victor’s voyage has been life altering. Victor creates human life, and subsequently blends paternal roles together. Having given birth, both feminine and masculine qualities are now associated with Victor. Victor’s identity is forever changed, and forever blurred. Meanwhile, the monster lacks a full identity. The monster is physically made up of numerous, nameless, dead human body parts. He is a zombie collage, who undergoes the evolution of man by himself. There is no one the monster can fully relate to or understand; he is one of a kind in an unaccepting world. Shelley destroys traditional literary framework with her narration sequence by making each narrator more foreign and virtually incomprehensible as the last.

    In Jeffery Cohen’s, “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),” his seventh thesis is, “The monster stands at the threshold . . . of becoming,” (11). Cohen talks about the place that monster’s hold in our human history, and how these monsters come to understand “human knowledge” (11) even when not human themselves. Obviously, humans already have a lot of knowledge – but it is limited. The greatest human knowledge comes from experience and observation. Humans have a lot of practice experiencing human things, but when it comes to observing there is often a display of bias. Monsters do not display the same bias because of their difference, they see differently. Their observations are pure and untainted.


  11. In the short piece, Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel, Devon Hodges argue that Frankenstein is a book written to expose the “patriarchal” world silently or in a disguised manner. In this world Shelley’s trying to expose, the woman voice is, as Hodges calls it “muted” or “silenced” (Hodges, 5). Frankenstein is an attempt to speak about this issue using male language and characters. This book is a mere attempt to secretly dive into the man’s conscious and challenge their perception. Shelley desired most of her characters to be male so that she can familiarize herself with a man’s world and gain access, Hodges writes, “ but perhaps in adopting a male voice, the woman writer is given the opportunity to intervene from within, to become an alien presence” (6). This claim remands of the dynamic between the insider verses outsiders groups, where the insiders have a lot of power but they have little to no information about the outsiders. On the other hand, the outsiders have a lot of information about the insiders, but they don’t have any power. Outsiders have to spark a conversation that seems familiar to insider group in order to drive change.

    Shelley’s unique narration style which deviates from the traditional novel structure has a hidden message, she is attempting to standout and show the “patriarchal” world a woman’s voice and the issues of alienation that men can’t seem to understand or notice.

    Jeffrey Cohen simply puts the notion of monsters, as a cultural movement when he said, “ The monstrous body is pure culture” (Cohen, 1). Monsters in novels are cultural symbols to show us what does it mean to be different. The idea of monsters ignites the feelings of “fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy” which are all the qualities most readers desire (1). I definitely agree with Cohen’s interpretation of “monster’s body as a cultural body” (1) because what’s not familiar to us is perceived as threating object to our livelihood. Anything that is not part of the cultural norm is considered a monster.


  12. Regarding Hodges: I was struck by the following: “The monster cannot be trusted because, though he ably performs in an alien language, he never fully inhabits it. As a result, his language always seems to be a disguise for something terrifying that remains unspoken.” In essence, the fact that the monster was not born into the language, or that the language was born from something other than the monster, creates a necessary dissonance between the two preventing as a result any pure qualities. I agree that the monster’s difficulties ably mirror Shelley’s. I wonder however at the necessity of intention implied by Hodges’ last statement in article. The apology he references gives evidence of Shelley’s disappointment in her own prose. It does not give evidence that she was attempting anything through her style other than a communication of her story. I struggle to believe, except merely through Hodges’ coherence, that in addition to her already thematically rich story, she was inserting a critique of patriarchal customs in fiction. Perhaps it is a minor gripe to delineate between a point made purposefully by the author and one drawn out by the reader. It seems to me that Shelley instead told the story of a “monster”, which categorizes it as an outsider, which when combined with her “artificial” style (also nicely compared with an artificial man), and that our evolving view of the roles of women have left us looking in hindsight and seeing them understood as outsiders to society as a whole, rather than having the very carefully calculated place in society which I’ve understood to have been more likely of 18th century society. This is turn might have us temporally declaring authorial intentions, rather than drawing from the text our own insights unique to our only certain square foot of real estate.
    Regarding Cohen: “From its position at the limits of knowing, the monster stands as a warning against the exploration of its uncertain demesnes.” I love this aspect of his theses, the fifth and sixth in particular. It defines the function of the monster. The form of the monster described in the previous theses lends the function. That it’s always something terrifying to the culture of the era in which it is born is critical to the fact that it always plays the same part. The monster is the fruit. Confirmed unsafe by whichever relevant authority, it inspires two of the most important functions of societal progression. The first is curiosity. The risk associated with it always seems to imply reward. The second is anesthetizing. The exposure leaves us less afraid the next time around. The monster is a tool, moving us from one frightening ordeal to the next as we eventually conquer what lay in our path.
    Note: A+ to Cohen for the Ripley reference and for using my favorite word in language, and of course, obviously, inevitably, he involves Foucault.


  13. Devon Hodge’s article “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel” exposed the feminist interpretation of Shelley’s novel and showed me a justification for Shelley’s unusual stylistic options throughout the novel. Hodge deconstructs the Monster as means to exemplify in what ways he represents the repressed female voice an in what matters the monster becomes “the figure of feminine textuality”. He explains that women, in the dominant male patriarchal society, become “an absence, an enigma, a mystery or a crime”, and we see Shelley exemplifying this thoroughly through the monster. The manners in which he feels ostracized from the community is an exemplification of the manner in which women feel when faced with a society that has the opposite sex as the dominant figure. It is extremely evident that this is the case when we see The Monster pondering about language in humanity, and we understand that women, often times, feel like the can not speak the language of the dominant sex. The manner in which Shelley sheds like into a controversial topic (specially at the time of publication) is truly exceptional, because not only does she discuss feminism in non-conventional way, but she also ironically does it through three “male” narrators. This is perplexing, yet staggering. Finally, it’s interesting to bring this line of analysis of the book in light of recent decades- we should think of how relevant the book still is in the 21st century. Has the female sex moved away from identifying as the “The Monster” in a patriarchal society?

    In Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses), we see a run-down of different ways in which Monster’s, in their many forms, can be interpreted. In applying each on to Shelley’s Frankenstein, I felt like Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference truly brought to light the manner the literary importance of the Monster in Shelley’s novel. Cohen explains that the monster is representation of the Other- an outsider, someone who does not belong within the limits of the dominant society. We see this explored in Frankenstein when we think of the Monster as an exemplification of women. When this was written, and arguably still today, we see women fighting against a patriarchal society that gives them no just place. Cohen explains that the “project of constructing and maintaining gender identity elicits and array of anxious responses throughout culture, producing another impetus to teratogenesis.” This quote can be applied to Shelley in her creation of a monster as means to try and maintain, and explain, a gender identity.” Furthermore, moving away from the feminist discourse, we also see the “Gates of Difference” being exemplified simply by the fact that all three main characters are outsiders in society. Not only do they not fit in, but we see a constant struggle in striving for success (Walton and Victor), as well a passionate pursuit of conforming in society (Frankenstein). In all three cases, the lead characters’ fail. Essentially, we see that in Frankenstein, the Monster really does serve the purpose of highlighting differences.


    • Jessica Pavia

      Hi! I just wanted to further talk about what we both mentioned today in class, and what you mentioned above. I think so much of the oddity found in Shelley’s writing comes from her wanting to get a broader message across. Whether that’s feminism or not, I’m not quite sure yet. But bringing in Patchwork Girl, all those broken parts are a part of something bigger. And with Jackson’s piece, so much of the story depends on all those broken parts, the people they belonged to, and how they are then carried into a new body. With Victor’s Monster, I think the pieces are less literal and maybe dependent on societal statements? I’m not entirely sure… The “feminist agenda” idea does make sense to me, however, especially taking into consideration Mary Shelley’s past, which included a feminist mother (THE feminist mother). The story itself is written so precisely, that it wouldn’t make sense if the structure, or disruption of structure, was not intentional in some way. This comment is all over the place, and I understand that. I guess what I’m trying to get across is that Shelley’s Monster is written so precisely, both by outside narrators, Victor, and with the monster’s own narration. And that right there goes against everything we expect out of a monster, especially one that was created from a mishmash of parts. So why wouldn’t other parts of this novel go against what we, as consumers, are used to?

      In class today, you said that you liked the feminist approach, but didn’t necessarily trust it. And I agree that I too don’t believe everything Hodges had to say. But, in a time where writing this book, as a woman, was quite conventional on its own, it makes sense to me that Shelley would go and push even more boundaries. Sometimes in order for voices to be heard, they have to be super extravagant (which I think we see a lot in media–especially with women).


  14. Devon Hodge’s “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel”, makes the claim that Shelly writes in a way that challenges the traditional patriarchal ideas embedded in a novel, through language choice and narrative form. My favorite parallel that Hodges draws has to do with the concept of femininity being “monstrous”. He states, “Like the monster [in Frankenstein], woman in patriarchal society is defined by an absence, an enigma, mystery, or crime, or she is allowed to be a presence only so that she can be defined as a lack, a mutilated body that must be represented to enable men to join the symbolic order and maintain their mastery”(7). Essentially, Shelly is writing in a world defined by men, where her purpose only seeks to improve the glory of her male peers by existing as a female, only to perceived as inferior. Shelly’s novel, while being criticized as “radically uneven and awkward”, uses this approach to “transgress literary structure from within”(8). I think Hodges sets up the excellent connection that the monster represents an aspect of femininity, being the “outcast” of society, misunderstood, and whose purpose stays at defining normality. I like the idea that the monster’s use of formal language seems unnatural, an “artificial cultural production”, which in turn reinforces Shelly’s use of formal, more elegant language, and her personal connection to monstrosity. While a think Hodge’s argument could have been clearer, Shelly does indeed undermine the patriarchal authors of the time by portraying Frankenstein’s structure as “monstrous” above others, and in turn comments on the role of women being misunderstood as well.

    Jeffery Jerome Cohens “Monster Culture” (Seven Theses) reinforces the idea that Shelly and her novel reflect the patriarchal values of the time. Thesis I: The Monster’s Body Is The Cultural Body, describes the, “The monstrous body of pure culture. A construct and projection, the monster exists only to be read…like a letter on a page, the monster signifies something other than itself”(1). In Frankenstein, this idea reflects the inner struggles in Victor becoming physically manifested in his creation. On a larger scale however, this reinforces Hodge’s idea that Frankenstein, the novel itself, is a monster that reflects the written culture of the time. Ostracized by structure and language, the novel defines “the normality” of the novels around it, by being abnormal. As discussed, Shelly uses Frankenstein to depict herself as independent, and to defy the patriarchal norms of society.


    • A reflection of Shelley can definitely be seen in the monster, neither are understood or accepted into the societies they live in. However, it is also possible to go beyond both Hodges and Cohen’s theories. For example, both men and women are of the same species that both men and women, and yet few actually, really realize that – but the monster is not human. He is an outsider of the strongest caliber since his conception. So, if Shelley is using the monster in order to describe the way the world views her because of her gender, it is not only a question of equality, but also humanity.


    • I also think the idea of “monsterous” femininity is very interesting in the themes of Frankenstein . It seems that so much of Frankenstein is built on juxtaposition and comparison that it makes sense that Shelly would be implanting ideas of the monster being analogous to woman into the story. To add to your point about the monster undermining patriarchal ideas, I think the fact that the monster is eloquent and sympathetic is an example of an undermining of our expectations, and if the monster is to be viewed as similar to feminine characteristics then this would further your point.


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