Paper Title

"Maternal Nature Bade Me Weep No More:" Mother as Nature in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Location

Room 223, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

Frankenstein, ecofeminism, ecofeminist, biographical, Mary Shelley, Mother Nature, maternal, mother

Abstract

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, at the tender age of nineteen, wrote a novel on the creation and subsequent abandonment of a monster by a young scientist in fervent pursuit of the secrets of nature. Scholars have examined the autobiographical aspects of Mary Shelley's first novel and the ways in which Victor Frankenstein represents Shelley's father, William Godwin, as well as the ways in which Frankenstein's monster represents Shelley herself. However, in regards to Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, only the supposed “motherlessness” of the novel has been analyzed. The heavy emphasis on the “absent mother” in the scholarship on Mary Shelley carries with it bitter connotations that are not representative of Mary Shelley's real attitude towards her own deceased mother. Instead, Mary Shelley revered and was deeply inspired by her mother. As a girl, she frequently visited her mother's grave where she read and reread her mother's works – many of which contain passages glorifying nature and its maternal comfort. Nature represented the “wandering spirit” of Mary Wollstonecraft, which, in a letter to one of her daughters, Wollstonecraft promised would persist after her death.

Using a biographical and an ecofeminist perspective, my paper examines the possibility that Mary Shelley's mother is not absent from the novel, but instead, is represented in the novel by Mother Nature. The comfort that “Maternal Nature” provides its characters reflects the same maternal comfort that it provided its author, replacing the motif of motherlessness so often emphasized in Shelley scholarship with the idea of an omnipresent maternal figure.

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Apr 2nd, 10:30 AM Apr 2nd, 11:45 AM

"Maternal Nature Bade Me Weep No More:" Mother as Nature in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Room 223, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, at the tender age of nineteen, wrote a novel on the creation and subsequent abandonment of a monster by a young scientist in fervent pursuit of the secrets of nature. Scholars have examined the autobiographical aspects of Mary Shelley's first novel and the ways in which Victor Frankenstein represents Shelley's father, William Godwin, as well as the ways in which Frankenstein's monster represents Shelley herself. However, in regards to Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, only the supposed “motherlessness” of the novel has been analyzed. The heavy emphasis on the “absent mother” in the scholarship on Mary Shelley carries with it bitter connotations that are not representative of Mary Shelley's real attitude towards her own deceased mother. Instead, Mary Shelley revered and was deeply inspired by her mother. As a girl, she frequently visited her mother's grave where she read and reread her mother's works – many of which contain passages glorifying nature and its maternal comfort. Nature represented the “wandering spirit” of Mary Wollstonecraft, which, in a letter to one of her daughters, Wollstonecraft promised would persist after her death.

Using a biographical and an ecofeminist perspective, my paper examines the possibility that Mary Shelley's mother is not absent from the novel, but instead, is represented in the novel by Mother Nature. The comfort that “Maternal Nature” provides its characters reflects the same maternal comfort that it provided its author, replacing the motif of motherlessness so often emphasized in Shelley scholarship with the idea of an omnipresent maternal figure.