A Question of Identity: Women, Science, and Literature

By Marina Benjamin | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Male Scientist, Man-Midwife, and Female Monster: Appropriation and Transmutation in Frankenstein

Marie Mulvey Robeds

Acknowledging the textuality of scientific discourse entails scrutinizing our understanding of the relationship between literature and science, particularly with respect to the degree to which literary metaphors can be regarded as constitutive of science rather than merely exegetical. Constitutive metaphors have the power to "disseminate" meanings within and beyond the parameters of science and in so doing can enable us to understand the dynamics of scientific and social change. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ( 1818) allegorizes the way in which science is not always in control of its metaphors by reminding us that men can lose control of the monsters they themselves create. At the same time, the Frankenstein creation may be seen as a trope for the monstrosities produced by the female imagination; such monstrosities are shaped by patriarchal anxieties surrounding the woman writer who has shifted her creativity from the exclusively biological to the cerebral. Not surprisingly, male Romantic artists and scientists who appropriated the female experience of pregnancy and birth through metaphoric, or what could more generally be described as tropological, language encountered no such deep-seated concerns. While women were marginalized and excluded from maledominated areas of science, medicine, and literature, men enjoyed the advantages of a dynamic and dialectical interplay between that which had been culturally programmed as masculine and that which had been constructed as feminine primarily through their appropriation of the female mind and body. 1

Of these processes of feminization in the arts and sciences, Mary Shelley must have been aware. Indeed the prototype of the male scientist as sole procreator and midwife is Victor Frankenstein, who, by creating a being without a female, gave birth to a monstrosity--as

-59-

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
A Question of Identity: Women, Science, and Literature
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
/ 248

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?