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Frankenstein: A Cultural History Hardcover – October 17, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Literary historian Hitchcock (Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London) leads readers on a guided tour of Frankenstein appearances in this colorful and consistently entertaining narrative. The history begins, appropriately, with the monster's unlikely creation by Mary Shelley as a result of a ghost story challenge (also taken up by John William Polidori, whose tale of a vampyre would later inspire Bram Stoker). Hitchcock then lays bare the publishing world of the 19th century, a veritable Wild West of unauthorized stage adaptations, parodies and continuations in which Frankenstein thrived. James Whale's Karloff classic gets its due, as do the disturbing and innovative 1910 Edison Company production and the 1952 live television broadcast starring a drunk Lon Chaney Jr. Running throughout the book is the parallel story of the invocation of Frankenstein in the public discourse as a metaphor for subjects ranging from the Crimean war to genetically modified organisms. While some Frankenstein dilettantes might find the narrow focus of the book somewhat tedious, there are enough strange and delightful anecdotes to keep most readers engaged. B&w illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Tyler Hitchcock’s last book was Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London. Married with two children, she lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (October 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061444
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For 191 years, Frankenstein's hulking monstrosity could be found, not only in our nightmares, but also on bookshelves, comic-book racks, theater stages, movie and television screens, as well as toy-store shelves. The monster indeed cast quite a long shadow across our popular culture and literary historian, Ms. Hitchcock (Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London), does a Herculean effort to enlighten the reader to the many facets and incarnations of the monster- from Shelley's original novel, to Karloff's tragic portrayal, to Dick Briefer's 1950's horror comic The Monster of Frankenstein and beyond.

Frankenstein: A Cultural History is a comprehensive and entertaining account of Shelley's infamous literary creation, and serves as a testament to the popularity of that, in Shelley's own words, "hideous phantasm of a man."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very enjoyable reference book on the history of the famous modern monster story and how others have adapted it for plays, movies, television and other fields. Includes nice black and white illustrations and photographs. The writer is clearly gifted and enthusiastic in her deliverance of the information. I'd say she is an expert in the study of Frankenstein.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frankenstein and Dracula were born on the same night -- sort of. The story of how Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and Byron's physician, John Polidori, spent an evening in the Villa Diodati, which resulted in the creation of these two seminal horrors has been told often enough, but probably never as well as Ms. Hitchcock does. After that, she goes on to discuss the book, and the frequent reiterations that have helped the Monster adapt to changing social mores and cultural needs. She writes well, and for the most part accurately, making this small cultural icon a fascinating subject.
If there is a flaw to the book, and I can't say for certain that there is, it seems as if Ms. Hitchcock has focused narrowly on her subject, and may, perhaps, have accepted general opinions regarding subject that were merely peripheral to the primary theme. A case in point is her dismissal of Lord Byron's treatment of his illegitimate daughter Allegra Biron (Byron chose this spelling as a way of aknowledging parenthood without confering legitimacy.) Ms. Hitchcock seems to accept the conventional wisdom that Byron was unfeelings and uncaring, as tossed the poor child aside to be raised by a group of Italian nuns -- an opinion which is largely trounced in Doris Langley Moore's "Lord Byron -- Accounts Rendered". I have no convenient way of testing other minor details -- and it's hard to say whether this type of thing really matters given the focus of the book.
Since most people haven't read the original novel (it's not an easy read) Ms. Hitchcock gives an excellent understanding of Ms. Shelley's inspiration and creation, and her discussion of the subsequent interpretations of the work is lively and interesting. This is a good academic work suitable for casual reading, and probably a must read for fans of horror movies and horror fiction.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the day Shelly finished he first verion until the lasted hit the screen, Susan Tyler Hitchcock was there. She has left no stone unturned. All aspects of the monster and his various lives are open here for the workld to see. Written to keep you reading and thirsting for more. A must for any Frankophile.
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Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book going into it. I was hoping for a broad review of the monster's impact on popular culture with significant emphasis on how the monster has endured into the 20th century and beyond. Instead, the author devotes a large part of the book to the 19th century creation of the novel and the genesis of the story through various retellings of Shelley’s original work. Although interesting, it just felt a bit overwrought and I couldn’t help but feel that much of it could have been condensed into a concise two or three chapters. Moving into the 20th century, there is heavy emphasis on the James Whale film, Boris Karloff, and their tremendous influence on what would ultimately become the most recognizable version of the monster. The book loses the reader at the end when Hitchcock begins drawing correlations between cloning and the Frankenstein myth. The theories are sound, but the chapter is long and is bogged down by just a bit too much science. The space would have been better utilized by continuing to focus on the enduring pop culture aspects of the creature. But if there is anything about this book that is almost completely unforgiveable, it’s this passage in chapter 9: The character Alice Cooper – born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 – disappeared from the music scene for more than a decade soon after his 1971 hit record, Love It To death, which included “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.” But he blasted back into view in 1986 – at the age of thirty-eight – with a new album, Teenage Frankenstein. Wow. Alice Cooper disappeared for more than a decade after “Love It To Death.” The next album that he and his band released was “School’s Out.” That song, to this day, is a classic rock juggernaut.Read more ›
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