REVISED

I think Mellor’s point that the gendering of nature and science in the novel are a problem has validity. I think she reads current cultural ideologies too far into 19th century culture, however, and wrongly conflates the science of that era with that of today.

“The scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics” (12) Mellor says. She seems to be saying this not just of 19th century science, but also modern science. Mellor sees manipulation as damning of all science, past and present.

In the passages of Frankenstein that describe Victor’s early interactions with science, there is lots of gendered language, placing him as the Male, and nature as the female: “Destiny…and her immutable laws” (49), “nature…show how she works in her hiding places” (53). I have a hard time with the way Anne Mellor expects a non-oppressive relationship between things perceived as male and things perceived as female in the early 19th century. Men were scientists. Women were homemakers. Men were active. Women actually were fairly passive. These were the things men perceived both women and Nature to be. Were they wrong? Absolutely. But at that point in time, gender roles were Gender Rules. Today, we break them, we bend them, we ignore them, we change them, and society may criticize, but gender roles do not carry the same weight in our lives now.

Similarly, science then is not what science is now. Morality and science cross each other frequently today, and scientists are generally very concerned with the ethics of research and especially medical decisions. We have agencies regulating such aspects of science. Would Anne Mellor object to donating organs because it goes outside the realm of understanding the body and into altering it? How does she feel about surgeries to remove or add or enhance parts of the body that are detrimental/missing/malfunctioning? Instead of evaluating 19th century science through the lens of 19th century culture, Mellor evaluates 19th century science through the lens of 21st century culture, and then calls it all the same.

 

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