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Frankenstein: or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley , Marilyn Butler
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 Aug 2008 Oxford World's Classics
Frankenstein was Mary Shelley's immensely powerful contribution to the ghost stories which she, Percy Shelley, and Byron wrote one wet summer in Switzerland. Its protagonist is a young student of natural philosophy, who learns the secret of imparting life to a creature constructed from relics of the dead, with horrific consequences. Frankenstein confronts some of the most feared innovations of evolutionism: topics such as degeneracy, hereditary disease, and mankind's status as a species of animal. The text used here is from the 1818 edition, which is a mocking expose of leaders and achievers who leave desolation in their wake, showing mankind its choice - to live cooperatively or to die of selfishness. It is also a black comedy, and harder and wittier than the 1831 version with which we are more familiar. Drawing on new research, Marilyn Butler examines the novel in the context of the radical sciences, which were developing among much controversy in the years following the Napoleonic Wars, and shows how Frankenstein's experiment relates to a contemporary debate between the champions of materialist science and of received religion. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reprint edition (14 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537150
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of the masterpieces of nineteenth-century Gothicism. While stay-ing in the Swiss Alps in 1816 with her lover Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others, Mary, then eighteen, began to concoct the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he brings to life by electricity. Written in a time of great personal tragedy, it is a subversive and morbid story warning against the dehumanization of art and the corrupting influence of science. Packed with allusions and literary references, it is also one of the best thrillers ever written. Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus was an instant bestseller on publication in 1818. The prototype of the science fiction novel, it has spawned countless imitations and adaptations but retains its original power.
This Modern Library edition includes a new Introduction by Wendy Steiner, the chair of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania and author of The Scandal of Pleasure.
Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in 1797 in London. She eloped to France with Shelley, whom she married in 1816. After Frankenstein, she wrote several novels, including Valperga and Falkner, and edited editions of the poetry of Shelley, who had died in 1822. Mary Shelley died in London in 1851.

"From the Trade Paperback edition."


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a review of the Oxford World's Classics edition, edited and introduced by Marilyn Butler of Exeter College, Oxford. She explains in her note on the text why the 1818 version is preferred - "it delivers an original, specific and profound fable about the modern world in conditions of social change" - rather than the usual published text of the amended 1831 edition. I agree that the original edition has a raw edge, a directness, and a refusal to concede to societal norms that is not so prominent in the later massaged text.

I came to the novel with an open mind, but with an appreciation that Hollywood had cemented the story as a classic of gothic horror. And yet the monsters tale of his `adventures' with the de Lacey family, for example, seemed worlds away from the `traditional' tale as told by American cinema. (Hence, presumably, Kenneth Branagh's 1994 adaptation bearing the conscious title "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein".)

The novel is very well-written and conceived. It is interesting for its literary-historical and scientific context, but of far more interest to me are the philosophical issues that it (unconsciously?) raises. It is geographically incoherent in places, as is the plot, but plot is not really the reason for this novel, is it?

The actual physical creation of the monster is, surprisingly, sparsely described, covering barely two paragraphs, and even then only a vague illustration is given. Throughout the novel, there are only indistinct allusions to his form. Captain Walton, for example, merely says that he was "gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in his proportions. ... his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich and complex tale 6 April 2013
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Put all thoughts of Hammer Horror to one side as Mary Shelley's intriguing and provocative tale is nothing like the rather bad films and adaptations it has spawned. Structured as an embedded series of narratives told by Robert Walton, an explorer; Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who plays god; and the significantly unnamed `creature', this tale engages with conceptions of what it means to be human in the early part of the nineteenth century.

That Mary Shelley was herself pregnant at the time she wrote this adds another layer to this rich story of creator/progeny where the `father' is horrified by the `child' he has created. But this is also a book which engages with questions about innate `human' nature vs. nurture, and the extent to which we are created by our social and cultural environments.

That the `creature' itself is well-read and comes to understand its own creation, existence and desires through Milton's Paradise Lost is only one of the complexities of this book; and the increasing mutual identification between Frankenstein and his creation turns the expected hierarchy of man and monster on its head.

So it's certainly possible to simply read this as a chilling tale of gothic horror - but an interesting number of themes put to work here foreshadow Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein Mary Shelley, 1818 6 Nov 2012
By keith
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Frankenstein
Mary Shelley, 1818

Here's another classic story I'm reading for the first time! Frankenstein the novel, as I suspected, is almost nothing like the various incarnations of Frankenstein I've run across over the years. I've seen so many versions of the monster in childrens' shows, comedy specials, skits, and other forms of media, but none of the pop-culture depictions of the monster seem to accurately represent the sadness and abundant emotion of the book.

I shouldn't be surprised at it anymore, but it seems like all British or American literature from the 19th century has to be set inside a frame story--the narrative has to be told to somebody who told somebody who is telling the reading audience about it, or something equally layered. Frankenstein is actually not told by Victor Frankenstein or by his created monster, but by a third party whose main purpose seems to be praising Victor Frankenstein's character to the high heavens.

The story starts out with some guy, Captain Robert Walton, writing to his sister about the weather in St. Petersburg. He's a sea captain and he is preparing for a big voyage to the Arctic, where he hopes something amazing and purposeful awaits him. As his letters continue, it becomes clear that Walton is seriously poetic and he really wants a like-minded best friend because pouring out his heart in well-composed letters to his sister is just not doing justice to the depth of his feelings. But Walton's loneliness doesn't last for too long because his crew soon discovers a dying man floating on a big piece of ice. As the man, Victor, is nursed back to health, he admits to Walton that he has been in the Arctic chasing another person, or rather a "demon" as he calls him.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This book is a "must read" for all science fiction / horror lovers, as you will be able to, as previously pointed out by other reviewers, trace the roots and themes of the genre back to its beginnings.

The depth of the book, however, lies in the poignant questions Shelley raises about scientific discovery and creation. These issues are as valid today as they were at the time and have been literary motifs ever since. Shelley's discussion of these themes makes this book a classic, and as such it should be understood.

If you are only familiar with Frankenstein's monster through film adaptations, you will discover an entirely different story, depicting the monster as a tragic and unloved hero, who turns into a brute following the betrayal by his creator, Victor Frankienstein.

Shelley's story centres around the emotional tragedy endured by the monster rather than on the depiction of his crimes or his outward appearance. In this context, we have to mention that the reader does not even find out how Frankenstein assembled his monster or how he infused him with life. This aspect of the story is entirely left to the reader's imagination.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Monster read
After creating a devilish monster, Victor Frankenstein is beset by the beast who he has abandoned. When Frankenstein refuses to create a mate for the creature, it sets about... Read more
Published 7 days ago by C. S. Bancroft
3.0 out of 5 stars Not all classics are quality literature
Frankenstein is a good example of how classical literature is not necessarily good literature. Recognised as one of the earliest writings of science fiction the book follows the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Salacious Crumb
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic monster tale
Published in 1818, the tale of a confused and troubled scientist involved in a forbidden and dangerous medical experiment. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Patrick CT
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like the film.
This wasn't my cup of tea. The novel is nothing like the films and the 'Frankenstein' we see replicas of over and over. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Tobchipbob
5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic
Honestly one of the best books I've ever read. Not only it is wonderfully written, but the story leads to much deeper questions about life, ethics, responsibility, society... Read more
Published 4 months ago by S. Bourgeois
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
What can I say. Well if you don't enjoy this novel you must be some kind of cretan. One of the best horror stories ever written. No film has yet done it justice,.. Read more
Published 7 months ago by L. Hamill
3.0 out of 5 stars "Cursed, cursed creator."
Victor grew up reading the works of Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Albertus Magnus, the alchemists of the time. Read more
Published 9 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
This is the original text and a must read for horror fans. The language is very descriptive and paints pictures in the mind of the whole story. A true classic.
Published 11 months ago by Mr. Richard Pearn
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting novel.
I bought this for my course, and have found studying Frankenstein immensely interesting. There are so many different interpretations to the novel that you can pretty much get out... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Millie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Great, book needed for uni studies, good for those who are interested in Literature as I needed this for my creative writing part of my English Degree.
Published 13 months ago by Sharfa Sorwar
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