“Had I a right to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?”: Mary Shelley’s subversion of primogeniture inheritance in Frankenstein and Matilda AND “Do ghosts remember long?”: Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard’s neglected poetic past

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Samantha McDonald (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Karen Kilcup

Abstract: While Mary Shelley’s literary works are collectively impressive, it is Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus (1818) that has steadily received critical acclaim and popularity in recent decades. The scholarly discussion surrounding this novel is as lively as ever and scholars are continually searching for new analytical avenues to understand Frankenstein and his creature. In contrast, Shelley’s Matilda is understudied and many classify the novel as purely autobiographical. While interesting, such views are reductive and discourage further analysis. In response, this thesis analyzes Shelley’s novels consecutively and expands Terry W. Thompson’s interpretation that Robert Walton is a figure of reanimation for Victor Frankenstein. Matilda is a figure of reanimation for Frankenstein; close analysis of the texts reveals intertextualities that comment on nineteenth-century primogeniture laws. Shelley’s novels critique nineteenth-century primogeniture laws through the construction of female characters who subvert traditional lines of familial inheritance and suggest that strict patriarchal traditions are destructive to feminine life and social progress. AND Scholars began assessing Elizabeth Stoddard’s literature shortly after her death in 1902. A few contemporary scholars have explored Stoddard, believing that her popularity today depends principally on renewed recognition. Jennifer Putzi’s recovery efforts expanded the author’s body of work with the discovery of 700 “Lady Correspondent” articles Stoddard wrote during the Civil War. These articles establish her as a political analyst and war correspondent, thus interesting wider audiences in her writings and dismissing earlier beliefs that Stoddard’s main concerns with the war were wholly personal and not political. My thesis will analyze Stoddard’s poetry and reorient previous scholarship to present her as a Civil War poet. The “Lady Correspondent” pieces will provide necessary historical and cultural contextualization, and I will use other Civil War poems for further comparative analysis. This essay may attempt to answer the question “is it any good?,” but will, more importantly, move Stoddard beyond analyses embedded only in sentimentalism, revealing her poetry as a feminine lens through which to understand the Civil War, a viewpoint scholars have often overlooked.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Civil war poetry, Elizabeth Stoddard, Frankenstein, Gothicism, Mary Shelley, Primogeniture
Primogeniture in literature
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, $d 1797-1851 $x Criticism and interpretation
Women in literature
Stoddard, Elizabeth, $d 1823-1902 $x Criticism and interpretation
United States $x History $y Civil War, 1861-1865 $x Poetry
War poetry, American $x Women authors

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