Title

“For What Crime Was I Driven from Society?” Women in Mary Hays’s The Victim of Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Faculty Mentor(s)

Diana Edelman-Young

Campus

Gainesville

Proposal Type

Presentation - completed/ongoing

Subject Area

English/Communications

Location

Robinson Ballroom B

Start Date

1-4-2015 11:00 AM

End Date

1-4-2015 12:00 PM

Description/Abstract

Mary Hays wrote The Victim of Prejudice (1799) and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (1818) during the British Romantic period; however, scholars have not yet written about them in conjunction with one another. Taken together, these two texts demonstrate a pervasive feature of women’s constricted lives at the time and reflect the impossible circumstances that women faced. Applying Julia Kristeva’s and Lacan’s psychoanalytic theories, I argue that when Hays’s central character Mary Raymond and Shelley’s creature, whom Shelley used to provide a voice for the otherwise voiceless female characters, enter the symbolic order, they come to understand the significance of their material bodies and their lack of power. In Kristevan terms, Mary and the creature attempt to return to the mother, to the prelinguistic, semiotic stage by sloughing off the material. Mary Raymond, for example, enters the symbolic order when Sir Peter Osborne rapes her and calls her a “beauty,” objectifying her. Afterward, she recognizes her subordinate role. Similarly, the creature recognizes society’s injustice when he, too, enters the symbolic order. After he learns language through the DeLaceys and recognizes his “otherness,” he comes to understand his subordinate role in society. When Mary and the creature become aware of their bodies, they attempt to reject society’s confinements and transcend its boundaries; however, their transcendence is momentary and they ultimately fail. Despite their failure, they achieve freedom in the return to mother, or the “chora,” when Mary rejects society’s labels and the creature dreams of an Eve to love.

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Apr 1st, 11:00 AM Apr 1st, 12:00 PM

“For What Crime Was I Driven from Society?” Women in Mary Hays’s The Victim of Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Robinson Ballroom B

Mary Hays wrote The Victim of Prejudice (1799) and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (1818) during the British Romantic period; however, scholars have not yet written about them in conjunction with one another. Taken together, these two texts demonstrate a pervasive feature of women’s constricted lives at the time and reflect the impossible circumstances that women faced. Applying Julia Kristeva’s and Lacan’s psychoanalytic theories, I argue that when Hays’s central character Mary Raymond and Shelley’s creature, whom Shelley used to provide a voice for the otherwise voiceless female characters, enter the symbolic order, they come to understand the significance of their material bodies and their lack of power. In Kristevan terms, Mary and the creature attempt to return to the mother, to the prelinguistic, semiotic stage by sloughing off the material. Mary Raymond, for example, enters the symbolic order when Sir Peter Osborne rapes her and calls her a “beauty,” objectifying her. Afterward, she recognizes her subordinate role. Similarly, the creature recognizes society’s injustice when he, too, enters the symbolic order. After he learns language through the DeLaceys and recognizes his “otherness,” he comes to understand his subordinate role in society. When Mary and the creature become aware of their bodies, they attempt to reject society’s confinements and transcend its boundaries; however, their transcendence is momentary and they ultimately fail. Despite their failure, they achieve freedom in the return to mother, or the “chora,” when Mary rejects society’s labels and the creature dreams of an Eve to love.