Saturday

Frankenstin Galvanized

Although not normally a book reviewer, I have kindly been sent a copy of Frankenstein Galvanized edited by Claire Bazin. I was immediately attracted by the clear typeface and logical structure, wherein the accompanying essays follow the text of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Frankenstein Galvanized is available on line through Amazon, W H Smith and Waterstones and in many bookshops.

In commenting further, I need to declare my interest in believing Sir Anthony Carlisle and his 1797 Gothic novel, The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey, were Mary's inspiration for her novel. Having said that, it was of interest to read the essays in that context, whether they assisted or negated my belief. In my research I have read widely, but not exhaustively, on Frankenstein and record my personal preference for factual and logical analysis expressed in simple language, rather than the esoteric discourses I sometimes encounter in critical assessments of Frankenstein. Thus, if anything I am more of an average reader.

There are eight essays in Frankenstein Galvanized. Marceau briefly discusses the origins of the Gothic novel and its influence on Mary. I cannot fault her comments, other than to doubt whether she has read Oakendale, which is perhaps an unfair criticism as I immediately wished I could discuss the parallels with her. Vielmas skims over 19C body-snatching and Aldini and then focusses on a deep interpretation of the symbolism in Mary's use of language. I personally struggle with that kind of analysis as I keep reminding myself Mary was an impressionable teenager when she wrote Frankenstein. I think Mary felt she was writing a Gothic novel, and not attempting to write deep and meaningful literature. Vielmas refers to people and events occurring after Frankenstein was written, which for me detracts from her message; the 1832 Anatomy Act, Abernethy, Smith, Naples, Burke, Hare, and Knox. In his essay Mowatt does something similar with mentions of Doherty, Sidmouth, Marx, the industrialists of the 19C and even events of the 20C.

This raises the whole question of Mary's 1816 dream. Almost without exception, essays on Frankenstein dwell on the dream, to the exclusion of the adage, 'give me the child until she is (twice) seven ...' While not doubting there was a dream of some nature, my belief is that was minor and not the equivalent of an opium induced dream of Kubla Khan originality, uninterrupted by a person from Porlock! I note the novel involved a great deal of work on Mary's return to England, and its content transparently draws on her real life experiences pre 1815, rather than any scholarly intent to imbue it with deep meaning. I would have liked to discuss Mary's life in 1797-1815 with Vielmas and Mowatt.

In her two essays, Ounoughi writes eruditely about Walton in asking 'Why does Homer hide behind Ulysses?', but again concentrates on a deep analysis of Walton's message, Victor's comments, and Mary's language, leaving me as an analyst with unanswered questions; what led Mary to use the epistolary style, who was Walton based upon, and where did Mary obtain Victor's knowledge of anatomy?

Jackson's essay comes closest to my own style of research, in discussing the editorial differences and like myself he describes himself as 'a general reader'. I believe the differences between 1818 and 1831 are the fundamental key in allowing one to unlock Mary's inspiration for Victor. Jackson is so close, I wish I could have urged him to take a step further and analyse the 78 changes he notes. When one does this it is apparent all Mary's significant changes mute, or muddle, references to Victor and his science. That then invites the question; why did Mary mute, or muddle, references to Victor and his science?

When the detail of each key change is taken in turn and overlaid upon the social and political events of 1826-1831, together with one's knowledge of the only anatomist having social contact with Mary in 1797-1815, it becomes apparent Mary's changes were made to protect the identity of that anatomist, by then an old man, and at a time he and his family were in danger of attack from rioters and the mob.

In acting to mask Carlisle's identity Mary was forced to divert from her innate knowledge and experiences of 1797-1815 which had enabled her to write the novel without faltering. Her 1831 changes venture onto weaker ground which detracts from the 1818 text. Perhaps I am overly drawn to Jackson's analysis as it best fits my case, but I feel sure if he had, like me, started with Carlisle and from outside Frankenstein, he would have reached a similar conclusion about Mary's inspiration.

I am sure Masuga and Bazin are both diligent and deep thinking scholars, but hope they will not be offended by my classification of their essays as examples of esoteric discourses that I personally fail to relate to. In her essay Bazin writes; 'Frankenstein, which should have started with chapter V: 'on a deary night of November' is a myth of birth' and she develops this view. My inability to relate to her logic is despite some (male!) acquaintance with the subject via the publication of my paper 'Man-midwifery history 1730-1930' as lead article in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

To elaborate on my bias, I feel obliged to note Frankenstein involves an anatomist who body-snatches, dissects, and experiments until able to animate the Creature; 'It was on a dreary night of November ...'. Twenty years earlier, Carlisle's opening in Oakendale was, 'In the gloomy month of November ...'.

In conclusion, and despite my vested interest in Carlisle and Oakendale, I feel the essays will be welcomed by those who focus on Mary's message and use of language. But at the same time they remind me of the enormity of my own task; as the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes, to whom Mary's inspiration is obvious, but where her courtiers so fear their peers' reactions, the little boy's opinion passes unheeded!

Monday

Man-midwifery history 1730-1930

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This website advertises a non-fiction investigative biography of Sir Anthony Carlisle (1768-1840). The research for the book has been a fascinating journey, now shared, involving a detective type, iconographic analysis, of 18C art and literature, coupled with detailed searches of 18C and early 19C medical literature, seeking original sources to confirm and support each discovery as it emerged.

The latest report of my man-midwifery research is published in the November 2012 issue of the highly respected and specialist Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The paper is available at http://informahealthcare.com/toc/jog/current as Man-midwifery history 1730-1930 and is also referenced in the Editorial to that issue. As a retired accountant I feel honoured that the Journal decided to publish the paper, which recognizes serious injustices arising in the history of obstetrics between 1730 and 1930.

Visitors interested in the history of 18C medicine will be aware my earlier research into the history of man-midwifery and anatomy, was published in 2010 in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine as Anatomy and murder to order and in in 2012 in the Social History of Medicine at http://shm.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/12/06/shm.hkr165.full?keytype=ref&ijkey=bGvNbUEC6TCi1q0 The research is also referenced in 2012 in my letter to the respected British Medical Journal. To read that letter, please visit http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.e552?ijkey=Y0ts6koZGkIzy7k&keytype=ref

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The latest Edition of the detailed research is currently available as a downloadable eBook version in PDF format containing over 300,000 words, 476 pages and over 300 illustrations, at a modest price of £9.99 (GBP9.99). It is a non-fiction resource, meticulously researched, with more than 1600 footnoted sources. To purchase the ebook via a download and using Paypal please click on the button.
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