The Invention of Mary Shelley: Fictional Representations of Mary Shelley in the Twentieth Century

Packard, Selina. 2003. The Invention of Mary Shelley: Fictional Representations of Mary Shelley in the Twentieth Century. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is an examination of fictional representations of the life of Mary Shelley. As such it forms a contribution to two main areas of study: the postmodern debate bout the relationship between fictional and factual discourses, and also to the perception of Mary Shelley in criticism. Chapter 1 constitutes a historical survey of
the biographies of Mary Shelley, from her death to the present, which are the factual sources for most of the fictional texts examined in the thesis. Chapter 2 goes on to examine the prose fictions in which Mary Shelley appears as a fictional character in
the years from the 1930s to the 1960s. In these we find her determined by her role as wife to Percy Bysshe Shelley, and she is thus presented as the standard heroine of romance fiction. In Chapter 3, study of later prose fictions from the 1960s to the
present reveals a figure determined more by her role as author of Frankenstein. In Chapter 4, I look at her representation on stage, and show how her persona is determined by developments in late twentieth-century theatre, and she thus becomes beleaguered wife to the radical Percy. In Chapter 5, which looks at her presentation on screen, it is her visual appearance that is the dominant force in her construction, and she appears as Pandora, beautiful but deadly releaser of evils. Finally, in Chapter 6, which looks at the more unusual media in which she has appeared as a fictional character, her construction as mother to Frankenstein, birther of literary monsters, is foregrounded. In conclusion it becomes possible to see how the nature of her persona has been determined as much by genre, medium, and historical context as by biographical facts. It also becomes possible to see how her fictional representation is
emblematic of the entanglement of factual and fictional discourses in general.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Fictional Representations, late twentieth-century theatre, genre, prose fictions from the 1960’s

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Jun 2020 13:43

Last Modified:

05 Jun 2020 13:44


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