‘We Sometimes Paused to Laugh Outright’: Frankenstein and the Struggle for Decorum

  • Carolyn D. Williams
Part of the Studies in Global Science Fiction book series (SGSF)


Evidence from the first surviving manuscript of Frankenstein to the 1831 edition suggests that Mary Shelley, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Percy Shelley, tried to exclude all mirth, vulgarity, or anything that might, by established standards of literary and social decorum, be considered low. The various manifestations of decorum cast fresh light on Frankenstein at its best while vindicating passages whose existence has hitherto seemed hard to justify. Consideration of a wide range of material, including Horace’s Ars Poetica, farces cited by the earliest critics, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, and my own theatrical practice, helps to explain the multitude of critical and creative responses, from Frankenstein’s first appearance to the present day, that deplore, exploit, and celebrate its multi-faceted generic potential.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolyn D. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English LiteratureUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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