Paracelsus and ‘P[r]etty Experimentalism’: The Glass Prison of Science and Secrecy in Frankenstein

  • Victor Sage
Part of the Studies in Global Science Fiction book series (SGSF)


Frankenstein’s obsession with scientific knowledge as ‘secret’ begins in a conversation between Mary Shelley’s parents about the necessity of openness in love. This exchange resulted in Godwin’s exploration of the glass prison of alchemy embodied in the narrator of his novel, St Leon (1799). The essay argues that the motif surfaces again in the bias of Victor’s own version of Paracelsus and the alchemists which influences his view of his tutors at Ingolstadt, opposing Waldman’s Neoplatonic ‘vision’ to Krempe’s Enlightenment empiricism, dismissed as ‘petty experimentalism’, which Frankenstein reads as a charter for his own secrecy. But Mary Shelley wrote ‘pretty experimentalism’ originally, which gives more value to ‘experiment’ and which the modern view of Paracelsus as primarily a bold experimenter seems to vindicate.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor Sage
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, Faculty of Arts and HumanitiesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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