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I spent the early afternoon reading the first volume of Frankenstein and the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out if I had anything worthwhile to say about it. As I began Frankenstein I couldn’t help but notice stylistic similarities between it and books I had read in the past, namely Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Comprised mostly of correspondence and first person narratives, Frankenstein greatly resembles a Gothic novel of the early 19th century. I couldn’t help but wonder exactly why it is considered one of the first science fiction novels, when I couldn’t see past the horror aspects of the story.

Upon finishing volume one it occurred to me. Cognitive estrangement. The very thing we discussed in class on Thursday and which Darko Suvin pegged as the crux of the science fiction genre was present in Frankenstein. It is set in 18th century Europe and it seems there are no other alterations to the world. However, Victor Frankenstein is able to push the known boundaries of chemistry so far that he is able to reanimate a dead body. An impossible feat in the natural world, even now.

While the genre of science fiction had not been defined when Frankenstein was published, it is clearly well deserving of its designation as one of the first. Taking the realm of the natural world, and through misused science introducing anxiety and terror. Shelley took aspects of a Gothic horror story and combined it with concepts from natural science to create something new.

One Response to “Questions of Genre”

  1. Josh Ambrose says:

    So the newness factor of reanimation is what makes the work science fiction? What would you say to those who argue that is a single factor, emblematic of what Suvin dismisses as cheap literature? Do you think that Dr. J and Mr. H is sciencefiction?

    Incidentally, I would Love to know what Shelley knew of the Jewish Golem myth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

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