Contribution to Book
The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley
Cave ab homine unius libri, as the Latin epigram warns us: "beware the author of one book." Frankenstein has so overshadowed Mary Shelley's other books in the popular imagination that many readers believe - erroneously - that she is a one-book author. While this is decidedly not the case, Frankenstein has figured more importantly in the development of feminist literary theory than perhaps any other novel, with the possible exception of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. This essay will discuss the major feminist literary interpretations of the novel, beginning with Ellen Moers's landmark reading in Literary Women I and then move to the more recent approaches taken by critics engaged in post-colonial theory, cultural studies, queer theory, and disability studies. In the process we will explore the provocative claim made by Fred Botting, who noted, "Frankenstein is a product of criticism, not a work of literature."