Category: Classic Fiction / General
Publication date: 31 December 1995
Number of pages: 0
This new edition of Mary Shelley's classic text Frankenstein, edited by Marilyn Butler, is the first to show in detail why the 1818 edition should be preferred to the third edition of 1831, on which most modern editions are based. Drawing on new research, Butler places the novel in its original intellectual milieu, that of the radical sciences in the dynamic, difficult and dangerous climate for early evolutionism which followed France's defeat in the Napoleonic Wars. Marilyn Butler shows how the celebrated 'filthy experiment' relates to the public debate between champions of materialist science on the one side and received religion on the other. Frankenstein brought into the open some of the most feared innovations of evolutionism - topics such as degeneracy, hereditary disease, and mankind's status as a species of animal. Since its publication in 1818, Frankenstein has become one of the most famous nineteenth-century novels, inspiring countless imitators, devotees and critics. In Frankenstein - the story of an ambitious young scientist and the monster he unleashes - Mary Shelley (1797-1851) questions the mystery of nature and the 'principle of life'. She provides an unequivocal and moral comment on the industrial age. Mary Shelley's most famous work synthesises the prevailing philosophical attitudes of her day. Frankenstein has captured the public imagination with the questioning of scientific enlightenment, and its horrific subject matter throws into doubt the prevailing rational discourse. The Frankenstein of 1818 emerges as an expressive contribution to an important episode in the social history of science and ideas. It is also great black comedy: harder, wittier and cleverer than the pious version with which we are more familiar. The first authentic Frankenstein is a mocking expose of leaders and achievers who leave desolation in their wake, an unforgettable parable which shows mankind its choice - to live co-operatively or die of selfishness.
What the papers say:
'In this new edition of Mary Shelley's classic work, Butler ... sets the work in its historical and intellectual context. She shows in details why the 1818 edition should be preferred to the third edition of 1831, on which most modern editions are based, revealing the 1818 version to be wittier, more clever, and harder-edged than the pious version which is more familiar.' - Reference and Research Book News 'The first appendix, detailing the differences between the editions, is useful for Shelley scholars, and Butler's work on scientific debate nicely counterpoints and complements other recent work, which has tended to concentrate on more specifically feminist, social and political issues.' - Emma McEvoy, Goldsmith's College, University of London
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