The many metaphors of Frankenstein

Elizabeth Young is also the author of “Disarming the Nation: Women’s Writing and the American Civil War” and co-author of “On Alexander Gardner’s ‘Photographic Sketch Book’ of the Civil War.”

By Robin Ferri   

Elizabeth Young explores the racial meanings of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” in American culture in her book, “Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor.” Young argues that the monster has served as a metaphor for race relations in the United States since the novel was published in 1818, and explores the ways in which this concept has impacted American culture and media.

Young, the Carl M. and Elsie A. Small Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College, was recently cited in an article by historian Jill Lepore in The New Yorker magazine. The article assesses Frankenstein on the occasion of the novel’s bicentennial. It analyzes various inspirations for and themes in “Frankenstein,” such as the fact that Shelley lost a child before she wrote the novel, and the abolitionist work that she and her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, took part in. Lepore refers to Young’s book in her analysis of the role of race in the novel.

“Because the creature reads as a slave, ‘Frankenstein’ holds a unique place in American culture, as the literary scholar Elizabeth Young argued,” Lepore wrote.

Read the article.