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Frankenstein: A Cultural History Hardcover – October 17, 2007
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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.)
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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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Top Customer Reviews
For anyone who is curious about this book or who adores the modern Prometheus... Just read this. Seriously, now.
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.