Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives

By Helen M. Buss; D. L. Macdonald et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Reflections on Writing
Mary Shelley's Life

Anne K. Mellor

In 1988, in my biographical study of the life and fiction of Mary Shelley, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters, I argued that we could best understand Shelley's fiction, and in particular her most famous novel, Frankenstein, by placing it in the context of her specific historical and psychological experiences. I also argued that we could read her life and her fiction as, in some meaningful way, “representative” of the specific constraints and concerns imposed upon the women of Britain by the social construction of gender in the early nineteenth century. Here I would like to reflect upon the problematic assumptions that lay behind these two arguments.

First, I would like to ask whether it is ever possible to determine the “particular historical and psychological experiences” that constitute the actual life of the biographical subject. Can the biographer ever achieve what Marc Pachter calls for in his introduction to Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art, the ability “to know the true shape of another's experience, to capture it in the face of all resistance” (7–8)? Or, as Hayden White has argued most vigorously in his Metahistory, are historical “facts” always already encoded within a master narrative or plot? Since I am not competent to address this question at a general

-233-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 330

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?