Like some of the less fickle denizens of the internet, I stand by the majority of what I post once it has been posted (and then proceed to perma-trash everything that isn’t relevant or flattering to my person–like my old myspace). One such truth eternally bonded to digital space is this tweet:
Since the casting announcement of I, Frankenstein, I’ve consistently received inquiries on “my thoughts” on the project. “My thoughts” more often than not, though, are gauged to be provoked-and-anticipated corroborations with the inquirer’s presumption that I should disdain the I, Frankenstein project.
“Don’t you think he’s too sexy?”
“Doesn’t it bother you that they’re calling the monster ‘Frankenstein’?”
“Are you looking forward to this at all?”
“Frankenstein as an action movie?”
Of course, my overwhelming response is:
One, because I refuse to pass any kind of judgment on the quality of I, Frankenstein as a project until I’ve actually seen the movie, and two, because my singular, unique opinion really doesn’t encompass any kind of authority over the quality of I, Frankenstein as a piece in the Frankenstein canon!
Because while I do possess a vast encompassing knowledge of most things within the all-consuming Shelley Circle and have essentially sworn my life to all things Frankencentric (which leads to people reaching out to me to recommend me to Frankenkitsch more than anything–which is much appreciated), I most certainly don’t carry a thermometer to actively measure the “goodness” or “badness” of Frankensteinia (or any kind of affirmative authority over anything Frankenrelevant, though I am flattered that my observations are so personable!).
(Although, let’s be real, Victor the necrophiliac is defo canon to the 1818 text and only became moreso in the 1831 revision—and then even moreso in NIN’s infamous “Closer” video.)
Very early on in its printed lifetime, Frankenstein became one of the most sought after, cited and adapted works of fiction—not genre/horror/Gothic fiction, but overall consumable literature contemporaneous to its time period and beyond. Within five years of hitting mixed-but-strongly-passionate critical reviews, play performances hit the stages and there-after “novelizations” of the staged versions. At home and abroad, pressings and stagings reached audiences across the social strata, as high as Parliamentary politicians and American abolitionist leaders and as common as the voyeurs of the “burlesques” of the era. Everyone knew Frankenstein, both the Creature and the Scientist, whether intimately through the novel or through the casual word-of-mouth of common talk, of political cartoons. And if they didn’t know Frankenstein, they would be urged by fans and ultimately scholars who sought to canonize the text, establishing its permanence in popular culture as intensely as its titular characters, well even before its centennial, deigning it a place of honour in everyman classics and classrooms alike.
Frankenstein‘s immediate and long-term appeal lies in factors as minimalist as the conscious choice to never confirm a singular identity to the Creature: branded a “daemon,” a “wretch,” a “monster” as well as an “insect,” but also self-identified as “Adam” and as “Satan” while also emulating the First Woman of Eden and the Other Woman of the DeLacey idyll. The Creature is every single one of those things and also disputably none of those things, depending on what page you’ve landed upon within the novel, or what film adaptation turns on your screen or what staging presents itself to you.
In her Cultural History, Susan Tyler Hitchcock succinctly surmises that the story as a whole is “on the one hand so true as to be universal and, on the other, malleable enough to conform to different times, places, peoples and moments in history.” Any individual can pick literally any variable within the book and make a valid defense in the case of X, Y, or Z in what Susan Wolfson and Ron Levao have dubbed in their still fresh but already outdated Annotated Frankenstein as a “range of implication.” Literally thousands of iterations of Jungian, Freudian, feminist, queer, racial, post-colonial, socialist, anarchist, imperialist, …. readings exist, and infinitely more, all at one co-existing, contradictory and complementary, will emerge—if one is to trust the mere existence of these emerging genealogies since Steven Earl Forry’s Hideous Progenies, let alone the very fact that there is to be an upcoming new movie adaptation of the Frankenstein story.
*All* persons who interact with Frankenstein are amateur manipulators, not unlike Victor himself.
We the readers, the viewers, the writers, the artists, the scholars are all given fractured parts in a composite story with only partial recognition of what those parts are and could be. The rest is up to us to piece together. And contrary to the self-righteous stream of tweets and tumblr postings of newly initiated AP Lit/Lang students, Frankenstein is not exclusively the name of the sole pale student bent over his creation on that dreary November night, just as it is no longer exclusively the novel penned by the heiress (and prowess) of authorship, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.