Frankenstein: The Critique of Pure Reason


I am currently teaching Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror novel, Frankenstein. In a nutshell, Jeremy Kessler explains why the book is so important to read.

Mary Shelley conceived of Frankenstein at a time when science, the modern representative of reason, was moving toward world-making and away from its traditional world-representing role. The more powerful applied reason became, the more creative became the rationalists’ work. Dr. Frankenstein marks the moment when the work of reason threatened itself with success. Mary Shelley’s novel stands as a living critique of pure reason, in which the very power of human reason undermines its claim to address a single reality, unchanged by the manipulations of individual consciousness. In its Romantic fervor, Frankenstein announces a new stage in the very old history of creation, a paradoxical stage we still stride, where growing anxieties about determinism accompany growing suspicions that human subjectivity, whether exercised by poet or scientist, is the sole determinant of reality.

“Creating Frankenstein” (The New Atlantis)


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