Category: Feminism and Science (10/10)


Science gone too far?

In Anne Mellor’s essay, “A Feminist Critique of Science”, Anne Mellor draws some comparisons between scientists who attempt to manipulate nature and Victor Frankenstein who pretty much does the same in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. Anne Mellor mentions that nature should never be manipulated in science, and should always be respected and constantly accounted for when conducting experiments. However, these rules are broken when Victor’s obsession of giving birth becomes reality. He unconsciously oppresses sexual politics by “giving birth” without a woman in the natural process of sexual reproduction, and instead does it through science, which “reverses the evolutionary ladder described by Darwin” (Mellor, 6).  Victor’s belief in its power to control nature and give birth break the limits of nature in science. Through the quote “penetrate the secrets of nature” (46), we can view this as an indicator of his view of nature in comparison to his view for humans, specifically men. Evidently, he does not care to use others, even dead people, for his advantage. Never did he seem sorry or regretful for borrowing from the dead, which again shows his indifference towards the less powerful aspects of nature. Ann Mellor states that the acts Victor commits are, “The embodiment of hubris…. [and his] blasphemous attempts to fear asunder the sacred mysteries of nature,” are asked against femininity and the sexuality itself thus questioning Victors’ whole sexual spectrum.” His obsession of giving birth can even be interpreted as Victor’s secret sexual preferences. Some readers can also see this as Victor unconsciously wanting to be a female, rather than male.  His actions give the reader many assumptions, but one for sure was a sense of desperation of some sort. In essence, Victor manipulates nature in a way he shouldn’t have, only to prove his engagement in oppressive sexual politic beliefs.

In Anne Mellor’s essay, “A Feminist Critique of Science”,  Mellor discusses the conception of Frankenstein vs. nature. In Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” she talks about the 17 century everything threw a feminist point of view. Victors creation which was what Mellor described as “bad” science, was a replacement for his mother since he couldn’t find love in any way. The creature was created to serve victor and to reach his special needs. “The scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics.” (Mellor 12). This shows how victor’s creation was to represent his mother but then it backfires upon himself since it didn’t turn out the way he wanted it. The creature categorized himself as “Adam” which is not what Victor wanted he wanted a woman to be with him his mother to be precise.  He believes that women don’t get to make their own decisions and that he would be the one to overpower and dominate the mind of a woman so he made the creature that had no conscience at the time so he would shape it to his own needs. Victors thoughts about his mother and his experience in chemical physiology are what led his male dominance to create the impossible.

-Marco Hidalgo

The article “A Feminist Critique of Science”, written by Anne Mellor, explores the rights and wrongs of unnatural science from the telescope view of a devote feminist. Mellor notes that nature cannot be controlled by science and shouldn’t ever be tried to. In Frankenstein, however, our main character Victor does not heed this advice, and decides to make life and death his personal plaything.

Victor is using nature, and life, unnaturally, and therefore is being unfair towards nature as a whole. To create a creature out of science is an insult to nature, and does not follow Mellor’s ideas whatsoever. In fact, it is the complete opposite, making Victor the antagonist of the natural course of human life and human death.

-Jody Omlin

in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the creature can be viewed as a physical representation of the working class when analyzed through a feminist view. It can be viewed as this since Anne Mellor’s essay attacks the society and how it is structured to be a man’s world. So viewing the creature as the working class and it being a man goes to show how everyone in this time period believed that women couldn’t work in the labor force. They did this since they believed women couldn’t possibly have the same mental and/or physical capabilities of a man.

Had Victor Frankenstein not become perturbed by M. Kempe and M. Waldman’s critiques of alchemist enthusiasm, he might not have initiated the enterprise of creating the monster who brings his very demise and effectively engaged in the misogynist-science of an era. This is where Anne K. Mellor in “A Feminist Critique of Science” bluntly reads the Mary Shelley’s novel and Victor’s erroneous engagement with modernity anachronistically to rebel against a two-hundred year old system of scientific method, naturalism, physiology, and electrochemical innovation. She misses the chance to familiarize her reader with scientists such as Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, or Ellen Swallow Richards whom before the conception of a categorical term known as ‘feminism’ had engaged and existed in the natural sciences. The humanities and fiction itself is useful when befallen to less self-righteous voices.

Victor isn’t just mocked by his teachers for his ambitions, but also by the “criminal judge,” (170) who dismisses his instance of public mourning in Chapter XXIII- after both Elizabeth and Alphonse pass away- as nonsensical insanity. “The magistrate listened to me with attention and kindness,” (170) demonstrates a superficial exteriority which for Victor’s own sense of agency is disingenuous and discomforting. Shelley relishes in this simple sentence a doubt-inducing ambiguity, blurring subject-predicate (is the judge himself a criminal or does he only process indictments on the law-breaking class?) which compares to Victor’s observations of professors at the university. “He heard with attention the little narration concerning my studies, and smiled at the names of Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, but without the contempt that M. Krempe had exhibited,” (53). The disposition in which university professors react to Victor traces for the reader a dignity in a paralleled criticism, but for Mellor, she replaces such a parodying in her own Faustian bargain. Mellor’s self-affirming substitution of Shelley’s hybrid-travel journalism-children’s literature design with repetitious allusions in the so-called feminist arc of allusion to Anglophonic figures including Goethe, Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Erasmus Darwin (how many men named Darwin existed in 19th-century naturalism?), Dr. Adam Walker, Giovanni Aldini and his university colleagues- in her plethora of good and bad scientists. Perhaps a practical, feminist reading which acknowledges the postmodern trend towards character interiority requires a more diligent reader than Mellor. Rather than returning to the monster’s assertions which suggest they “…might take the form of bloody revolutions in which the oppressed overthrow their masters,” (Mellor 14), Mellor’s willing of a sexual politics in her infatuation with Harvard physicists and their “emotionally repressed,” (Mellor 11) sexual energy has the potential force to become an actual interpellation of masculine desire that deconstructs what Victor deems a suitable venture for extending to an othered, sentient being the discoveries of liberty and revenge.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

Anne Mellor discusses in her essay, A Feminist Critique of Science, how the different motives of male scientists directly correlates to their oppressive sexual politics. Scientists who strive towards controlling and manipulating nature see women as submissive and inferior to men. Because nature is seen as a woman/mother, men in the sciences are attempting to assert their power and intelligence on “mother nature” to create and explore completely new ideas and distort the original functioning of nature and its offerings.

In Mellor’s essay, she explains that, “rather than letting organic life-forms evolve slowly over thousands of years according to natural processes of sexual selection, Victor Frankenstein wants to originate a new life-form quickly, by chemical means”, (Mellor 7). The author states that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein chooses to produce a brand new species of life without contemplating the effects that this may have on nature and society. Frankenstein chooses to disrupt the natural life-cycle of human beings by taking human flesh and bones from graveyards. This act completely contradicts the theories of evolution from scientist Erasmus Darwin, who suggests that organic matter and human remains should be used to nourish soil and act as fertilizer for plants. Instead, Frankenstein chooses to build and bring to life a new creature, and enjoys the idea of becoming the “master” of these new life forms (Shelley 41). Mellor’s argument regarding scientist’s intentions to oppress women in relation to their experiments and studies is evident through Frankenstein’s creation of his “monster”, which is seen as a solution to fill the void of his deceased mother. This creation is a symbol of his longing for the ability to give birth and have a sexual relationship with his mother.

Written by Cathryn Flores

 

Victor’s preoccupation with science is immediately obvious at the beginning of the story. We all know that he is intent on accomplishing the impossible because he feels like he is the one person who can achieve it. Victor’s ego aside however, the idea that science can and will conquer the natural, is one shared by many Enlightenment thinkers of the time. Enlightenment era thinkers saw science as a study that should not be grounded in emotion but instead logic and an almost clinical detachment. This generally has been and is regarded as “good” science , not “bad” science,  even by today’s standards. Anne K. Mellor however exposes this separation as perhaps not so “good” after all because Victor is the prime example of where seemingly “good” science has instead revealed itself to be the opposite. Mellor explains that Mary Shelley “substituted for Davy’s complacent image of the happy scientist living in harmony with both his community and himself the frightening image of the alienated scientist working in feverish isolation, cut off both physically and emotionally from his family, friends, and society” and in doing so Victor serves as an example of where this practice of detachment in science is in fact negatively affecting not only the scientist himself but also all those around them. This science effectively becomes negative as “detached from a respect for nature and from a strong sense of moral responsibility for the products of one’s research, purely objective thought and scientific experimentation can and do produce monsters” so Victor’s actions could have only ended in a creation that was by all rights monstrous. Not only does this suggest that Victor personally was doomed from the start to create something that could only be destructive and inherently “bad” but it also implies that the purposeful decision to separate oneself from science is the wrong approach. If scientists separate themselves from everything in their pursuit of knowledge then everything they are likely to produce as a result of this pursuit will be tainted by the very objectivity they felt was necessary to discover it in the first place.

The isolation creates monsters essentially and in Victor’s case that is entirely true. Furthermore, not only does the isolation contribute to the monstrous qualities of the creation but Victor’s desire to circumvent Nature’s course also participates in the making of the monstrous. Victor “has further increased the monstrousness of his creation by making a form that is both larger and more simple than a normal human being” and this serves as one of the many examples in Victor is going against the natural order of things. This is another way in which monsters can only be created and is a type of science that “manipulate[s] and control[s] rather than describ[ing], understand[ing], and rever[ing] nature.” So Victor in trying to circumvent nature has proven that science is used in a manipulative manner that it shouldn’t be. Science should not be a tool used to get around Nature and her order of things but that is how it is used. Every time that it is used in this way the results is monstrous.

The female is not what creates monster but the male.

By Diana Lara.

Image result for anne mellor mary shelley

Anne Mellors in “A Feminist Critique of Science” is critique through the lens of a perspective of a feminine as she establishes that nature should never be manipulated nor controlled in the scientific field, but instead be mindful and aware when performing experiments. Yet this is not seen in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as Victor Frankenstein oversteps the line between science and nature unconsciously as his ambition and arrogance leads him through this path which leads him to give birth to a life form.

Victor Frankenstein is unconsciously being unjust to “nature” by having a bias towards women. The time period and social context of the story is a great significance. The novel takes place in the 18th century when the idea of “traditional” gender roles was still prevailing, which is reflected as Victor mind never comes across this thought as it is a social norm. The main character, Victor is unconscious about his actions as his focus on his field of study has him occupied as he asserts, “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember” (Shelley 43). Victor begins with the word “secret”, stating that he was kept away from this information and now has the “desire” obtain and gain this knowledge. The word “divine” is mentioned and usually holds a definition of relating to God, but in the novel, Victor uses the word with the definition of discovery and understanding. Further leading to his mind being occupied with his desire to learn he aware pursues the “hidden law of nature” which Mellors says are that people should be mindful of and not look into the “hidden” as it will lead to a person exceeding to what she calls “good science” and “bad science”. His “earliest sensation” gave him a taste of the physical awareness who he finds with excited and addicted as he goes on to create life with the creature without a thought of the consequences. Here is what Mellor declares that“the scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics” (12). Victor then proceeds to create a male creature without being conscious of his action. The sexual politics here is a social norm that is engulfed with a society willing to accept the way women during this time are viewed as inferior when compared to men.

Victors ambitious to have glory is set which sets forward an attempt to be this “God-like” figure with an attempt to control nature. Victor reveals that “if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (Shelley 47) Proclaiming that he will then alter nature itself which Mellor is firmly against. The creature holds a representation of how he was able to make “man invulnerable” as he brings pieces of human part back to life. Therefore, he does succeed in manipulating “nature” and becomes a form of a “God”. He uses a jubilant tone to assert that he will personally accomplish this and have an everlasting effect on humanity. Because of the success of his experiment, he will accelerate evolution which is supposed to happen over a time, he is able to have an organic life form and have a sexual selection. The penetration of nature leads him to give life in an unusual more way rather than the pure way which is a mother giving birth. Upon him giving life to a creature he eliminates the female role in sexual reproduction and now is controlled by a male. The female will, therefore, be cast aside and no longer have any control over what is supposed decision made by two people. Asserting man as the dominant gender.

Levit Martinez

In Anne Mellor’s essay, A Feminist Critique of Science, it is demonstrated how dealing with the use of science in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein unraveled an important perspective into the manner that nature is viewed with a feminine perspective. Mellor makes it clear that nature should not be manipulated or controlled in science. She believes respecting it and constantly accounting for it when conducting certain experiments. As for in the novel, Mellor’s argument and rules can be seen being completely put aside and forgotten about. Victors arrogance and egotistic mindset ultimately revealed his repression towards the opposite sex by his aspiration to manipulate and control all nature and create life.

In Frankenstein, Victor repeatedly references nature and when he does this he depicts nature as a woman. This can be seen on page 46 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when Victor says “…but her immoral lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery.” This demonstrates that Victor does call nature a woman, however, he does not do it with the intention to harm or hinder her rather allowing him to interpret nature better. On page 46 as well, Victor states “…here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more.” When Victor speaks about science he is stating that these scientists “penetrated” deeper into the understanding of manipulating nature thus allowing them to control and continue to learn from it. Victors enthusiasm to apply feminity to nature and to so discover secrets about it shows this strong sense of oppression towards it.

To conclude, we can see Mellor’s arguments continue to get certified when Victor views a lightning strike, and he describes it as something “…[curious] and [delightful]”. Victor describes this sequence as a sort of mystery, however, it can be interpreted as if it is a warning from mother nature or foreshadowing what is to come for Victor if he continues to question and attempt to unravel the depths of mother nature. Ultimately, despite this “warning”, Victor is left with sorrow and nothing due to his fascination with wanting to distort and manage “mother nature” for his own self-centered objectives.

By: Daniel Olmos

In her essay, “A Feminist Critique of Science”, Anne Mellor discusses in detail the way in which Victor Frankenstein’s obsession with practicing “bad science” can lead one to conclude that in reality he was anti-feminist and part of the greater scheme of capitalistic men. Mellor supports Shelley’s stance on the idea that only men who practice science for personal gain in order to manipulate “the elemental forces of nature to serve man’s private ends” (2) are the ones who demonstrate a support for capalistic ways. She introduces Shelley’s view about science and her meaning of what are both, good and bad science. Shelley believed that the use of “good science” was practiced by scientists who were willing to study and understand science for all of its natural purposes but never tried to manipulate it and that “bad science” was performed by those scientists who wanted to “master” and control science in order to have overall control of it. Through this, Mellor then argues that, “the scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics.” (12) 

Mellor argues that through Victor Frankenstein’s hope to “penetrate into the recesses of nature” (3) and the fact that nature is always referred to as “her/she” and holds a very feminine connotation, Victor shows his true anti-feminist ways. This is seen in the early stages of Victor’s growing obsession with science when he states, “I have described myself as always having been embued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature.” (46) When he says he wants to “penetrate” nature and its secrets he demonstrates a vulgar attitude toward something feminine and shows his inconsideration and demeaning of nature and its feminine characteristics thus, leading to a conclusion that he himself has an anti-feminist nature. I think through this very knowledge we can conclude as to why Victor decided to create a life on his own and went against the natural way of producing life – because he thought he was above women in all ways that he did not need one in order to create a life. Victor said, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” (57) And with this, I think Victor further demonstrates his desire to be the reason behind life and demonstrates envy for women because they usually tend to be the epitome and representation of life. I think his unwillingness to create a female creature later on in the novel, as well as creating a male creature since the start, show his anti-feminist nature in a deeper sense. I believe that through his vulgar and demeaning description of willing to “penetrate” nature and his reluctance toward the idea of needing women to create life, Victor Frankenstein demonstrates his obvious belief of being superior to women. Through his actions, he degrades the necessity of women and therefore, explicitly demonstrates his belief of not needing them.

Therefore, I agree that men who take it upon themselves to manipulate and use science for their own personal gain tend to show a negative attitude for women by demonstrating their degrading attitude toward nature and it’s feminine attributes. Their actions further demonstrate their support for a capitalistic society in which one can manipulate and control certain aspects of nature in order to gain something out of it and through their manipulation of nature they also demonstrate their belief of not needing women. By supporting Shelley and her idea of bad science,  and stating her thoughts about the extremity of science and what it can create and lead to, made me think that she was criticizing science in its entirety as well. 

-Beverly Miranda-Galindo