Influenced by Enlightenment philosophes like Rousseau and Smith, Romantic writers, such as Coleridge and Percy Shelley, celebrate the sublime power of sympathetic love to merge the self and the other (be it human or inhuman) into a wondrous whole, thereby precluding the dangers of solitude and solipsism. Not all Romantic writers, however, share the same sanguine view of love. In Frankenstein, for instance, Mary Shelley offers an alternative to the optimistic perspective on the capacity of (mutual) sympathy. She shapes the novel into tales of bitter solitude, one caused by the lack of sympathetic understanding between Victor and nature, between the Monster and the De Laceys, and between the Monster and his father Victor. In these mutual relations, I argue, Shelley evokes elements of Enlightenment/Romantic love, only to revoke its sublime power and furthermore turn it into despair. Rather than the Romantic joy of transcendent plenitude, the novel is shrouded in Gothic despair, the outright negation of redemption.
"Shelley’s Frankenstein as a Book of Love and Despair."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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