Jessica Hale

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Jessica Hale


Though critical studies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are numerous, Jessica Hale took up the challenge of using psychoanalytic theory as a critical tool in her textual analysis of the work while drawing connections between gender and racial issues. She is also currently researching the life and works of the twelfth century religious recluse, Christina of Markyate. Jessica enjoys spending time with her family, practicing yoga and visiting the beach. She plans to pursue graduate study in comparative literature with emphases in critical theory and cultural studies. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




This paper undertakes a critical examination of gender, sexuality, race, and their interrelations in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Using psychoanalytic theory as a tool of literary criticism, it focuses on two layers of concern in Shelley’s novel: the local concerns of the nuclear family and the global issues of imperialism and New World slavery. While the progression of human relationships in the novel reveals a subtle critique of nineteenth century domestic life, the representations of race reveal the fears and anxieties present as the British Empire began to crumble. As the novel progresses from anxiety over individual relationships to anguish over larger social issues, from Victor Frankenstein’s relationship with Walton to the perceived threat of the annihilation of humankind, a common thread can be detected. The relationships and rhetoric of Shelley’s novel reveal the problematic nature of nineteenth century discourses on family and race. At issue in both the domestic and the global spheres is a troubled relationship of sexuality and procreation. By incorporating references to contemporary criticism of Frankenstein which suggest that Shelley was very much aware of the social and political tensions surrounding these issues, four relational trajectories are identified which define the relationships depicted in the novel: familial, homosocial, sexual, and racial. These four levels of human interconnectedness reveal the inherent instability of the institutions of family and race that society sought so determinedly to establish as stable and immutable in the nineteenth century.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                
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Gabriele Schwab

School of Humanities

Jessica Hale’s paper examines the intersectionality between gender, sexuality and race in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. While many critics have highlighted the novel’s concern with nineteenth century domestic life, Jessica revisits this concern within a larger framework that addresses the forces of globalization, imperialism and New World slavery. Drawing on psychoanalytic theories, Jessica shows how anxieties about family and individuality increasingly give way to larger social and global concerns. Informed by psychoanalytic and postcolonial theories, Jessica’s imaginative reading of Shelley’s Frankenstein clearly demonstrates her ability to work with difficult theoretical texts and concepts. Moreover, the reading reveals her skill as a reader of literary texts and her ability to bring theory and literature together productively.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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