The Mental Anatomies of William Godwin and Mary Shelley

Synopsis

"The Mental Anatomies of William Godwin and Mary Shelley focuses on the influence of enlightenment and Romantic-era theories of the mind on the writings of Godwin and Shelley and examines the ways in which these writers use their fiction to explore such psychological phenomena as ruling passions, madness, the therapeutic value of confessions (both spoken and written), and the significance of dreams. In many cases, associationist psychology and the theory of the ruling passions enable Godwin and Shelley to provide fascinating and sophisticated insights into their characters' mental processes and behaviors. A number of their mental anatomies reflect the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions and his conceptions of mental transparency, sincerity, and environmental conditioning. Because his primary focus is on Godwinian and Shelleyan perspectives on the mind and its operations, Brewer avoids twentieth-century psychological terminology and ideas in his discussions of their fiction. In The Mental Anatomies of William Godwin and Mary Shelley, Brewer contends that Godwin's and Shelley's literary mental anatomies should be regarded as exploratory and often inclusive thought-experiments. He organizes it by themes rather than by chronology or works. For the most part, he focuses on their lesser-known writings. In an effort to contextualize their fictional treatments of psychological themes, Brewer also considers the works of other Romantic-era writers including Mary Wollstonecraft, Joanna Baillie, Mary Hays, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Charles Brockden Brown, as well as the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophical and medical theories that informed Godwin's and Shelley's presentations of mental states and types of behavior." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved