Study Guide

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in Cultural Studies

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Even though cultural studies often focuses on contemporary culture, texts from past centuries can be basically brought back from the dead with the interpretive potential of cultural studies. And speaking of being brought back from the dead, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a prime example.

Critical approaches to this text have taken as many angles as Frankie's monster has scars: psychoanalytic readings usually employ dream analysis and focus on Oedipal/pre-Oedipal desires, while Marxist readings point to Victor Frankenstein's alignment with either the ruling classes or, alternately, with the worker who is alienated from the product of his labor (as well as from nature and other people).

Another key theme concerns reproduction, since Victor's obsessive desire to create life brings up present-day issues and debates regarding artificial reproduction and reproductive technology. Gender is also relevant to this topic, as Victor is seizing the reproductive capacity that is biologically associated with the female and asserting his role as sole creator. What would Judith Butler say?