Original Research

Desire, gender, power, language: a psychoanalytic reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

H. Kotze
Literator | Vol 21, No 1 | a440 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v21i1.440 | © 2000 H. Kotze | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 2000 | Published: 26 April 2000

About the author(s)

H. Kotze, Potchefstroom University for CHE, Vaal Triangle Campus, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa

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Psychoanalytic literary criticism has always had a particular fascination with texts dealing with the supernatural, the mysterious and the monstrous. Unfortunately such criticism, valuable and provocative though the insights it has provided have been, has all too often treated the text as a “symptom” by which to explain or analyse an essentially extratextual factor, such as the author's psychological disposition. Many interpretations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein provide typical examples of this approach. Much psychoanalytic (and also feminist) criticism and interpretation of the novel have focused on the female psyche “behind” the text, showing how the psychoanalytic dynamics structuring Shelley’s own life have found precipitation in her novel. This article offers an alternative to this type of psychoanalytic reading by interpreting the novel in terms of a framework derived from Lacanian psychoanalysis, focusing on the text itself. This interpretation focuses primarily on the interrelated aspects of language, gender, desire and power as manifested in the novel, with the aim of highlighting some hitherto largely unexplored aspects of the text which may be useful in situating the text within the larger current discourse concerning issues of language and power.


Feminism; Frankenstein; Mary Shelley; Psychoanalytic Literary Theory


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