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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.2, 203 ~ 218, 2018
Fellowship beyond Kinship: Sympathy, Nature and Culture in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Jung Eun Seo
Both in terms of frequency and importance, sympathy is one of the most central themes that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) delves into. While not a few critics have written on the subject, one crucially important aspect has been overlooked in the previous discussions of sympathy in Frankenstein: Shelley’s critical intervention in the term’s long lasting association with the notion of one body from a single origin. Focusing on the novel’s central theme of sympathy, my paper addresses this oversight in the existing Frankenstein scholarship. I argue that Shelley’s main agenda regarding sympathy in the novel is to problematize the logic of self-reproduction implicit in the notion of sympathy as an essentially familial tie. The reading of the novel as a warning against human violation of nature has been prevalent both in academia and popular culture. Nonetheless, in terms of sympathy, this paper offers an alternative reading in which the novel questions, not valorizes, the naturalization of nature. Far from valorizing the inviolable sacredness of nature, I argue, Frankenstein is a literary project attempting to disassociate sympathy from the natural bond that one is born into, and instead, re-associate it with fellowship as a second-nature to be continuously reinvented and reeducated.
Key Words
sympathy, kinship, nature, culture, language
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