Mary Shelley’s Monstrous Abortion

  • Richard C. ShaEmail author


This article considers what Mary Shelley means when she has the monster call himself an ‘abortion’, as well as unpacks the kinds of lostness an abortion represents. To be lost is a claim or feel of retroactive value, one where lostness enables the recognition of value but only in the face of the lost object’s absence, which initiates awareness around absence. In the monster’s case, he claims to have lost his potential, which means quasi-value consolidates around quasi-presence. Is the monster justified in calling himself an abortion? More crucially, what kinds of lostness does the monster represent? To address these questions, I consider the material and intellectual histories surrounding abortion. Briefly sketched, these include teratology, or the science of monsters, the medical and legal contexts of abortion, along with the histories of autonomy, perfectibility, and sensibility. The bottom line is that the claim of lostness enables humanity to hold onto a potentiality that makes it possible to remain at home in a world that is indifferent to the idealisms that make it inhabitable.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American University WashingtonWashington, DCUSA

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