Handout for 2/19

February 19: Shelley (3).

The handout details a strategy for revising your paper introduction.

My fly-by overview of intertextuality pointed to the quotation from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” in the first chapter of vol. 3. The handout links to an electronic edition of Lyrical Ballads, the 1798 breakthrough volume of poems by Wordsworth and Coleridge that crystallized the English Romantic movement. Mary Shelley, like her husband Percy Shelley, is usually thought of as part of the second generation of Romantics: younger than Wordsworth and Coleridge, they were much influenced by them. But “influence” is inadequate to describe what Mary Shelley is doing with Wordsworth when she has Frankenstein quote “Tintern Abbey” to describe his friend Clerval.

(Incidentally, this intertextuality makes the fabula chronology a little tricky. “Tintern Abbey” was published in 1798, and Walton’s letters are dated “17—.” That could only make sense if it’s 1798 or 1799 and Frankenstein is really on the cutting edge with poetry. But that’s not the worst problem, since elsewhere (75–76) Frankenstein quotes Percy Shelley’s poem “Mutability,” published in 1816! At that point we have to say that Frankenstein narrates but Shelley writes, and it is Shelley’s writerly choice to cite “Mutability.” Or that chronological consistency is not as important as Frankenstein’s notable affinity for Romantic poems about sublime nature.)

Jake reminded you in class of the epigraph to the novel, the title-page quotation from Paradise Lost. It comes, as your edition tells you, from Book 10 of Milton’s long poem (1667–1674) retelling the story of Adam and Eve. In the passage Shelley quotes on the title page, Adam, having been cursed for eating from the tree of knowledge, is lamenting his fallen state.

Author: AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick