Tag Archive: Anne K. Mellor


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

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.

By: Maya Carranza

In “A Feminist Critique Of Science”, the author, Anne Mellor, illustrates the idea of nature as female and as “fertile”. Woman are linked with creating life since most woman are “fertile” and are able to conceive and give birth. The only thing stopping Victor from being a mother is the lack of a womb. Therefore, Victor challenges nature and tries to create life on his own by creating his monster. Frankenstein’s strong desire to create life is as if he is attempting to physically become pregnant.

Frankenstein’s desire to create life can be compared to a woman becoming pregnant and giving brith. This also give the impression that Victor is questioning his gender and perhaps wants to be a woman.  Mellor states ,”The scientist who analyzes, manipulates and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics.” (12)  By “giving brith” through the use of science, Victor abuses the use of nature which Mellor disagrees with. She argues that nature is feminine and with Frankenstein’s manipulations in nature and science, he engages in sexual politics resulting in him ignoring the power that woman posses by being able to give birth.

By Jade Graham

Anne Mellor argues in her piece “A Feminist Critique of Science” how Frankenstein involves the effect of Victor’s bad science. Mellor makes the point of Victor being driven by egotism and glory – motivations that men succumb to – are the reasons why chaos ensues in the novel. Not only to change his life, but change life and science as the world perceives it. Victor according to Mellor possesses, “the hubristic manipulation of the elemental forces of nature to serve man’s private ends.” which is the foundation of science being ruined (Mellor, 2). Hubris is being overly confident and or cocky, Victor being sure of himself wants to prove himself as a man. That pressure he puts on his well being is what leads to his eventual demise. But first, he creates the monster in his lab. Mellor, a woman writes her skeptical viewpoint taking consideration of the fact of Victor’s personality. He mentions family throughout the novel. A family can only occur when a woman gives birth. Mellor explains how once Victor made the creature, the human factor of natural science (birth) was stripped away. A new technology changed how life began. Because of this power is taken away from women, giving birth is a part of natural life. Proper sexual reproduction and growth allow for normal upbringing.

Nature is sometimes to referred to as Mother Nature. This feminine address only adds to Mellor’s point of how nature is a simple natural process. Pure, always growing, bright, and positive. Once Victor began his goal of creating the monster there is the mention of lightning with the oak tree nearby becoming destroyed.

 

Image result for oak tree struck by lightning stump

 

Trees grow and usually last for years and years. However, Victor’s experiment changed the tree. He changed nature and technology through his motivation for supposed better things (a more fulfilled life with glory and knowledge) and bad reasoning. Victor performed this experiment for himself. It is about the one man alone rather than a group or population. Mellor makes the point of Darwin relating to Frankenstein. Victor would receive a Darwin Award, his actions qualify him and therefore prove how he wrongly affected the world both scientifically and technologically.

 

Sabrina Vazquez

In her essay “Frankenstein: A Feminist Critique of Science”, Anne K. Mellor wrote about how Mary Shelley demonstrated the dangers of arrogance in the 17th century science scene. Mellor does this by listing and explaining each and all examples of Victors Frankenstein’s violations of mother nature. By using great and known figures in science and literature, she juxtaposes Frankenstein’s creation and their fundamental ideas of nature.

Although Mellor’s had a plethora of detailed examples, I do not believe her goal was to discredit or attack science, but rather disprove the idea that Frankenstein furthered science in creating the creature. She first off makes the distinction between good and bad science. Good science is she states is “reverent description of the workings of nature” while bad science is “the hubristic manipulation of the forces of nature to serve man’s private ends” (Mellor). Good science was meant to further improve our understanding of nature, not to tamper with it, much like Frankenstein did. Bringing to life his creation, to Frankenstein was an obsession brought on by his confidence in being able to create through science a new life form. This creature however was not being created for the good of human-kind, rather for the validation Frankenstein seemed to be quite wanton for. In his haze of creation, Frankenstein also stated how beautiful nature was, but he was “insensible to the charms”, which I found further added to Mellor’s argument.

I found that Frankenstein’s infatuation with the idea of going beyond the realms of typical science, sprouted when he attended M. Waldman’s lecture. Particularly nearing the end of the professor’s discourse

‘They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding              places. They ascend into the heavens…They have acquired new and almost unlimited        powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even        mock the invisible world with its own shadow’ (F. 52)

There was a cross-over here, from this lecture Frankenstein did not think of himself only as scientist but as a potential creator of life, but not the natural way but through science. The disconnect to me seems to be the fact that Frankenstein justified his actions as claiming to be advancing science, but one life created (the creature) ended in many lives lost. Mellor wrote, “Detached from a respect for nature and from a strong sense of personal responsibility for the products of one’s research, scientific experimentation and purely objective thought can and do produce monsters” (Frankenstein: A Feminist Critique of Science). However, the creation was not the monster, Frankenstein was, and it was because he had been told that as a scientist they held unlimited powers, which was of course untrue.

In his arrogance, instead of making great strides in the science community, he created great chaos and ultimately was the cause of his own demise. Frankenstein by his actions “moves down rather than up the evolutionary ladder; he reverses human progress and perverts the law of the survival of the fittest” (Mellor). Nothing was gained by his brand of science, his creation did not bring him praise and recognition, and all because he did not hold more respect for mother nature. Had his own ambition not gotten the better of him, Frankenstein could have understood that nature was/is not something that one could replicate and achieve the same perfection.

science-god

The Feminine Spirit

Tania De Lira-Miranda

2471329-casebook_of_victor_frankenstein_by_millushkaa

Throughout history, being a (white) man was seen as the best. After all, they were the people who had the power, the money and everything else in between so it was no wonder that people would try and act like a man. Since, according to this idea, this is why some girls become tomboys; they just want to be ‘one of the guys’ or ‘be a man.’ But in Anne Mellor’s article “A Feminist Critique of Science,” she explains that in science (fiction), the scientist, which are usually male, develop start developing a female spirit or as Mellor puts it, “[an] aggressive, virile male scientist legitimately captures and enslaves a fertile but passive female nature.” (Mellors 1) She explains this topic even further when she explains that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shelley inserts gendered metaphors in her novel.

When Victor is introduced to science, he states that natural philosophy has “regulated my fate” and that he “desire to… state those facts” (Shelley 45) and he, along with other scientists like Isaac Newton, believe that nature is a female as they have unveiled her but “her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery” (Shelley 46) and how there are books on the subject that men “had penetrated deeper and knew more [of].” (Shelley 46) Though the concept of nature has no gender the characters in the novel, and people in the real world, tend to refer to nature as being a woman, even going so far as calling it Mother Nature/Mother Earth/Earth-Mother. If we follow this idea that nature is a woman, then by writing about how men “penetrate” the subject nature, it plays into the idea that scientist have a masculine and heteronormative spirit to them since in order to penetrate something, especially in the sexual manner the sentence seems to imply, one usually needs to have male genitals. And another thing to note is that the idea of wanting to uncover everything nature hold has pushes nature into a submissive role while the scientist has the dominant role in the relationship fits in with the notion that men are superior to women as in this case, the scientist would be the man and nature is the woman.

Mellors’ idea that Frankenstein has Victor, the scientist, get a “fertile but female nature” appears when he comes up with the idea and then creates the monster. When thinking about creating the monster, Victor talks about how the new species would “bless [him] as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to [him].” (Shelley 57) Victor’s female nature as he displays womb envy/vagina envy, the anxiety that many men may feel caused by envy of the biological functions of the female sex (pregnancy, parturition, breastfeeding). By creating a new species, he would become their mother, since mothers are the ones who create life (babies), and he would be their source, which can be paralleled with breastfeeding, which is a way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development, and that the species nature would all be thanks to him, which parallels to him giving them birth.

These gendered imageries and metaphors show that Mellors’ idea that “the scientist who analyses, manipulates, and attempts to control nature unconsciously engages in a form of oppressive sexual politics” (Mellors 12) is proven to be correct as by giving the ideas of scientist and nature a gender, an oppressive sexual relationship formed as the scientist, which are usually men and is Victor in the novel, dominate nature/science, which are given female traits and characteristics.

Victor The Birth Giver

Arlyne Gonzalez

In construing Anne K. Mellor’s essay in dissecting Mary Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein, she is responding and questioning the novel’s content that revolves around the ideology of science. Mellor carried the notion that science must not be manipulated nor taken lightly because she believed science should not consume one’s life. Mellor poses the question of Victor immediately depicting his experiment and engineering a male creature rather than a female creature. Other than that obvious detail in the novel, Mellor explored how “Erasmus Darwin, and Luigi Galvani-together with the teachings of two of their ardent disciples, Adam Walker, and Percy Shelly, were crucial to Mary Shelly’s understanding of science” (Mellor, 2). Mellor is emphasizing how Shelly to gain knowledge of science ideologies, she had to generate research and apply that research to her novel. Mellor was focused on how the gender roles that were presented in the novel; the male characters playing a dominant role and are considered to be in the upper-class division, while the female characters were considered to be in the lower-class division and throughout the novel, the women often faced death fates and encompassed a weak sense of self. For instance, Victor’s mother died of scarlet fever, even though Victor got ill multiple times in the novel and overcame those illnesses. As well as Justine Moritz, a young girl who was immediately convicted guilty for a crime she did not commit, and she falsely confessed to the crime and sacrificed her life in an execution. The judge nor anyone opposed Justine’s execution nor defended her innocence. Although Mellor did point out an important gender role in the novel, what was missing from her evaluation was the fact the entire novel was written by a woman, Mary Shelly, an adolescent woman at the age of nineteen writing about science and how science ideologies affected society as a whole in the nineteen century. Mary Shelly was challenging women’s’ status in society by educating herself about science, she was placing a pedestal for women and justifying to the world that women as well can express knowledge on enlightened ideals.

Mellor recognized the dangerous hazards that Victor encountered when he generated the creature. Victor was being guided by his ignorant conscience and did not put forth much thought into what he was doing. Victor did not only want to play the role of God and challenge nature, but Victor encompassed a twisted mind where he wanted to play the role of giving birth as well. The novel steers away from natural gender roles, whereas the woman is the one who conceives the infant and the father is a contributing factor to creating the infant. The novel interchanges gender roles and illustrates Victor inventing another creature applying science methods. The creature was an overgrown infant that encompassed deformed physical features because the creature was generated by science, not the natural way of being conceived. The fact that Victor wanted to play the role of giving birth triggers the idea of Victor questioning his gender, more specifically, his sexuality. Meaning, Victor was always fascinated with beauty and perfection. It can be concluded that Victor was never in love with Elizabeth, but much rather her self-image. Can it be that Victor perhaps wanted to be a woman? Did he envy Elizabeth’s physical features and was not truly devastated by her death? Victor encompasses serious and twisted issues with himself and throughout the novel, he is isolated from his family and is alone with his dark thoughts and sorrow. It can be concluded that Victor was not happy with his life and knew that something was missing from his life but did not quite know what the missing puzzle piece to his gloomy life.   victor-experiment

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

So, we have reason to believe Victor Frankenstein is a rapist.

Yes, yes, I know the victim we’re talking about isn’t a person, but nature (if that makes it any better), but let’s wrestle some more with that idea. Because I can’t help but think, “Victor may be violating nature by playing God and all, but doesn’t he also show affection for nature? Doesn’t he spend a lot of time romanticizing landscapes?” And the answer to all that is, “Yes … but not really.”

Victor does have some tender scenes with nature. Roaming the mountains, he describes how nature “congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds — they all gathered round me, and bade me be at peace” (Shelley 90). In times like these, Victor dotes on nature and calls her (if I may continue the metaphor) a healing friend. But the lovey-doveyness quickly stops. When Victor wakes up the next morning, the rain is so heavy that he can no longer see his “mighty friends” (91), the mountaintops or the trees or the eagle. And he declares, “Still I would penetrate their misty veil, and seek them in their cloudy retreats. What were rain and storm to me?” (91).

Wait. What? Penetrate?

Sounds messed up, but any reader of Anne K. Mellor’s “A Feminist Critique of Science” shouldn’t be surprised. Mellor argues that Frankenstein is a story where “the aggressive, virile male scientist legitimately captures and enslaves a fertile but passive female nature” (Mellor 1). And based on the novel’s gendered language, it’s pretty hard to refute that. (The word “penetrate” comes back a lot more than you’d expect.)

So Victor’s definitely obsessed with raping nature, but the cool thing is nature doesn’t just take it. After he decides to mess with nature again by agreeing to make his creation a female companion, Victor accuses the sky for mocking him and asks it to “crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought” (Shelley 131). He bemoans to Walton, “I cannot describe to you how the eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me, and how I listened to every blast of wind, as if it were a dull, ugly siroc on its way to consume me” (131). The horrific results of his rape (the creation) now fully illuminated to him, Victor cannot even bear the mere presence of nature. Where there was once comfort now lies misery. Gone is the restorative, consoling friend. Gone is the passive, silent victim. So, yes, nature in Frankenstein may be feminine, and she may have been violated, but she’s far from submissive.

And I think Victor may want that veil back.