Attached to Reading: Mary Shelley's Psychical Reality
Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis
Attached to Reading: Mary Shelley's Psychical Reality
Julie A. Carlson, University of California, Santa Barbara
This essay explores Mary Shelley's fiction and writings about fiction as anticipating features of Freud's concept of psychical reality that in turn highlight the comparative tameness of his ideas on how creative writing affects phantasy and reality. It reads *Frankenstein* as a meditation on the construction of psychical reality and exposure of the dark sides of fiction's effects on the ego. This essay appears in _Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.
Mary Shelley's psychical reality is not Freud's, but several aspects of hers cast interesting light on his and on the role of psychical reality in the development of psychoanalysis. In fact, a quick survey of details from her literary biography suggests that hers might be wilder. For this is a person whose writings and personae worry aloud about the extent to which fiction not only is their reality but also animates, informs, and sucks the life out of possibilities for living. The creature in Frankenstein is raised by books, Mathilda's childhood companions include characters from literature, and Mary Shelley's "personal" journals are not only co-authored but primarily listings of books and persons encountered—a striking re-writing of interior life. Even more basic, her mother literally is author and text, whose headstone first acquaints her with her letters and, thereby, with insight into the inextricability of reading with loving, dying, and living. Then there is the fact that her father must go undercover to produce children's books and transforms his household into a Juvenile Library and children's bookstore that eventually goes under. In addition, this is a writer whose best-known fiction is mythic both in stature and content and whose model for psycho-cultural reform is re-signification—recasting the terms and scripts that have delineated, and thereby constrained, character, especially female character, from time immemorial.
A simpler way of delineating Shelley's special place in the development of psychoanalytic thinking comes through reconsidering her acknowledged status as a child of romanticism. The importance of German romanticism to the development of Freud's thinking is well known and rests not only on his references to writings by Goethe, Schiller, E. T. A. Hoffman, and Heinrich Heine but also on their revolutionary insights into the power of imagination, fantasy, and symbolization to unsettle both idealism and reality. In fact, the German word "Phantasie" signifies both the process and results of imagination, and the only prize that Freud received in his lifetime was the Goethe Prize, in the acceptance speech for which he credits Goethe with approaching psychoanalysis "at a number of points," including how the treatment of love in Elective Affinities anticipates "a connection to which the name of psycho-analysis itself bears witness" ("Address" 208, 210). Freud makes few, if any, direct references to English romantic writers, even though Coleridge coins the term 'psycho-analytical' in 1805 (Notebooks 2:2670). But the primacy of imagination to English romanticism, especially in its famed (and fabled) division from the fixity and deadness of fancy, has occasioned two strains of proto-psychoanalytic inquiry that follow from the recognized splitting of English imagination into aesthetic and moral realms. One concerns relations between imagination and identification in identity-formation as they map out "untrodden regions" of human or poetic minds. A second highlights the organic and developmental aspects of imagination to delineate good art from bad and child as father to man.
The romantic "discovery" of childhood makes writings from this period even more amenable to psychoanalytic inquiry. Lacan considers this "dated notion that was born long before psychoanalysis" quintessentially English, and it arguably distinguishes the teen culture that Laurence Rickels identifies in late-eighteenth-century German writings from the seer-blest infancy of Wordsworthian romanticism. "It is no accident," Lacan writes, that "we discover" the idea that "the child is father of the man" in "that period with its fresh, shattering, and even breathtaking quality, bursting forth at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the industrial revolution, in the country that was most advanced in experiencing its effects, in England." "That reference to childhood, the idea of the child in man, the idea that something demands that a man be something other than a child, but that the demands of the child as such are perpetually felt in him, all of that in the sphere of psychology can be historically situated" (Seminar 24, 25). This situatable insight into the defining nature of the earliest stages of life, that arises once philosophy clears the inscribed slate of pre-Lockean minds, affects the "poets" of the British romantic era both as the "source of their inspiration" and the "development of their principal themes" (24). New conceptions of mind occasion as well the burgeoning field of children's literature and romantic debates over the relative efficacy of rationality or fantasy for activating and engaging a child's mind.
A literal child of the romantic era, in her status both as second-generation romantic and blood child of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, the life/writings of Mary Shelley embody, even better than they define, both of these strains. Indeed, as second-generation romantic, she is well-known for posing a sustained challenge to her contemporaries' over-idealized views of imagination—stressing the sad realities of living and writing and protesting all forms of Prometheanism that mystify the contingencies and non-progressive features of either. Yet this assault on romantic imagination is not the simple reaction that it is often made out to be, whereby her realism squares off against the idealism of her parents' politics and her husband's philosophy in the name of other similarly debased concepts (woman, death, regress). Instead, her embrace of "wandering fancy" welcomes imaginative life and unleashes what the "development" in romantic imagination represses: delight in errancy, death in life, fits and starts of inspiration. Her claim to fame as second-generation is the depth of her challenge to the futurity ostensibly assured by romantic theories of imagination and of her sustained inquiry into the nature of the reality that ensues from a life of imagination and the world of books. More than any other writer of the period, her life/writings dwell on the troubled boundaries between reality and fantasy, enacting what D. W. Winnicott has called "the perpetual human task of keeping inner and outer reality separate yet inter-related" (3).
Boundary confusion, especially concerning the contours of reality, is overdetermined by Shelley's position as blood child of Wollstonecraft and Godwin, first-generation radicals whose own life/writings quite literally wrote her into existence and envisioned features of her ensuing reality. As social experiment, she is herself a "work of a new species," and her life/writings clearly attest to the possibilities inherent in an imaginative life. After all, she invents the genre of science fiction and composes the most widely-recognized modern myth and myth of modernity. At the same time, they struggle as none before over their bondage to precursors, the special constraints that delimit products of revolutionary thinking, and the anxiety of experiencing one's deepest feelings as prescribed, proscribed, and pre-scripted. Moreover, as a female child of romanticism and, even more importantly, the first girl insight into the development of whose imagination literary culture has bothered to record, the life/writings of Shelley designate several roads not taken in Freud's engendering of mind. If, as Viola Kolarov has shown, Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship fleshes out the childhood of Hamlet in ways that affect Freud's concepts of mourning, melancholy, and the Oedipus complex, imagine what forms might have emerged from Freud's readings of Frankenstein, Matilda, Proserpine, or the 1831 Introductory psycho-analysis of such progeny. In creating and reissuing a creature whose monstrosity is linked explicitly to its origins in literary texts, Shelley's life/writings proleptically redesign Freudian accounts of the pre-Oedipal, the literary dimensions of phantasy, and the alleged passivity of girls.
Reconsidering Shelley as a child of romanticism, then, has consequences for the development of psychical reality that follow from Shelley's unique position as a romantic outsider and insider. As such, she mirrors and at times analyzes what it is to live on the border, especially of the literary world, as well as to perceive oneself on either side of constitutive divides (dead/alive; female/male) that are deeply unstable. As a precursor to Freudian psychical reality, her writings accentuate the prominence of literature in structuring both phantasy and reality which is weakened in Freud's accounts. One can say that this (over-)emphasis stems from her identity as a writer, where literature would play a more decisive role than usual in psychical and material realities, but it should not be reduced to this fact. For Shelley's fictions not only respect dreams and employ (i.e., redeploy) myths but also announce through various stylistic hallmarks a troubling of the boundaries between phantasy and fantasy, waking dream and story, or phantasy, literature, and reality that anticipate psychoanalytic insights and methods. They trade on the slippage between autobiography and fiction, are anti-metaphorical and un-literary, do not know their "life" from their "fiction," and often enlist prior fictional works to avow "unconscious" knowledge. This willed nearness to conscious and unconscious life of her fiction—such that her first literary foray is a story about making a new life and her subsequent fictions sustain a bare minimum of grief-stricken life—can be construed as a phantasy that sustains her work of un/mourning. But it also concretizes the illusion of fictional or imaginative worlds by de-mystifying a primary illusion that motivates their genesis: that such worlds necessarily are spaces of possibility, of greater freedom than reality, or more life-sustaining than living. Dissecting this illusion alters productively what romanticism can re-claim on behalf of the literary: its in/fancy. It also clears space for analysis of the literary and analysis by means of it that both Shelley and Freud see as the slow but only means of change.
"Original Stories from Real Life"
Then I wandered from the fancies of others and formed affections and intimacies with the aerial creations of my own brain—but still clinging to reality I gave a name to these conceptions and nursed them in the hope of realization. I clung to the memory of my parents; my mother I should never see, she was dead: but the idea of my unhappy, wandering father was the idol of my imagination.
. . . up to the present we have not succeeded in pointing to any difference in the consequences, whether phantasy or reality has had the greater share in these events of childhood.
– Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis
Granting the non-conformity between romantic, Shelleyan, and Freudian understandings of the unconscious, two constituents of Freud's formulation of psychical reality help to illuminate what is distinctive about Shelley's renditions of the relation among phantasy, literature, and reality up to her time. One involves Freud's characterization of the force that psychical reality holds for the subject and that distinguishes it from psychological or interior processes generally. These phantasies assume a consistency and resistance that are comparable to that displayed by material reality and thus have the effect of material reality for the subject. The second involves the context through which Freud's perception of this reality solidifies, his infamous abandonment of the seduction theory. As is well known, in the process of discovering that an actual physical event need not be, and usually is not, the cause of a patient's hysterical symptoms, Freud comes to recognize the force of phantasy, and the related role of infantile sexuality, in the subject's psyche and development. Both constituents hold in Shelley's treatment of the topic. Her writings broadcast the consistency and resistance that characterizes psychical reality, and her insight into this reality emerges in her earliest fictions, Frankenstein (1818) and Matilda (1819), both of which thematize the status of incest in developing consciousness of this reality. Even before her writings are seen as pre-occupied with the problem of mourning, then, they register the determinant nature of psychical reality on the formation and deformations of a character's life. As we will see, they also enlist the realm of books to designate the ins and outs of psychical reality.
Because of its topic, autobiographical resonances, and style of presentation, Matilda is the richest text for beginning our investigation. Indeed, in contrast to Frankenstein, which appears amenable to virtually every type of critical analysis (another measure of its mythic stature), Matilda for the most part has inspired only psychoanalytic readings. Its topics—father-daughter incest, trauma, necrophilia—are best explicated by psychoanalysis, and its scene of narration—a death-bed confession that voices the unspeakable to a friend called stranger—pre-figures the talking cure. Several scholars have already detailed how remarkably Freudian is Shelley's treatment of these issues, and I draw especially on the evidence that Tilottama Rajan and Mary Jacobus have marshaled for perceiving Matilda as a text regarding trauma and a traumatized text. They read as the symptom of Mathilda's trauma the "unreadability" of her narrative, as it is manifested in Mathilda's alienation from the poetry she cites and the literary world it embodies as personified in Woodville.
But equally revealing about the centrality of psychical reality is the depiction in Matilda of the absence of reality for its protagonist, not only as the symptom of trauma but the precursor to it. Even among Shelleyan texts, Matilda contains a striking absence of commentary on social, economic, or political affairs, and, to the minimal extent that Mathilda peoples her world with "real" people, rather than the trees, characters from literature, and airy creations of her brain that she designates as her childhood companions, those people are avowedly unrealised, other-worldly, or idealist. When her father returns in the flesh from his sixteen years of wandering, he is no more fleshed out or historicized than when he existed as the idol of her imagination. "There was a curious feeling of unreality attached by him to his foreign life in comparison with the years of his youth. . . It was strange when you heard him talk to see how he passed over this lapse of time as a night of visions" (16). This mode of irreality extends to his perceptions of her. "[M]y father has often told me that I looked more like a spirit than a human maid" when he first caught sight of her (15)—an accurate materialization of the kind of presence she held for him during his absence, registered for him by the "stupendous difference" between "the women we meet in dayly life and a nymph of the woods such as you were" (34). In this regard, the "young man of rank" whose visits to Mathilda in London trigger her father's crisis and their ensuing misery represents not so much the threat of alternate sexual options as the sheer intervention of non-fictional reality ("well-informed and agreeable in his person") into the irreality inhabited jointly by father and daughter (19). Moreover, in her willed seclusion after her father's death, what allows Woodville to enter Mathilda's reality is less that he too has lost his beloved or that her grief has softened but that his world is fantasy—he is a poet whose writings and existence are devoted to ideality and futurity.
Woodville's depiction has long been read as expressing Shelley's hostility toward the idealism of romantic poets and their slim, often gender-opportunistic, purchases on reality. In it is also heard a marital lament against having one's misery recast as raw poetic material for a play. But the associated view that Mathilda's or Shelley's protest expresses a bald stake in reality over against the otherworldly claims of poetry, imagination, or fantasy is belied by the total lack of reality that constitutes Mathilda's (at times, also Shelley's) world. At best, that reality is merged with literature, when it is not total phantasy for the subject. In the case of Matilda, this fact affects the "reality" of the incest ascribed to the father-daughter relation. For not only is Mathilda's existence poisoned by her being invaded by the word "love," rather than by any external physical manifestation of desire. And not only does this invasion prove traumatic because, as Jacobus explains, it replicates an "innocent" girlhood wish that, in the re-hearing, returns as guilt (Psychoanalysis 182-85). But, before this scene, Mathilda's sexual maturity for, and availability to, the father is registered not in any bodily observation or overture but in his asking her to resume reading at the place in Dante where his wife Diana had "left off." In other words, Mathilda's status as erotic partner is affirmed through acknowledging this potential for textual intercourse. (In the event, Mathilda chooses to read a different passage).
Certainly, we are invited by this conflation to see Matilda underlining the sexual nature of the father's interest in the daughter (also by the father's admission that Diana had died to grant him access to this substitute). But we are also invited to see that the sexual nature of their relation is expressed through a textual relation and that their incestuous passion is mediated, aroused by, and, in the case of the daughter, only "known" or ratified through literature. Matilda makes clear that Mathilda's literary knowledge complicates the self-assurance of her claim that "I disobeyed no command, I ate no apple" (17). Technically "innocent" of the "looks and language of unlawful and monstrous passion," Mathilda is well-versed in their literary manifestations via her familiarity with Alfieri's Myrrha, Fletcher's The Captain, and Proserpine. Moreover, she references these texts as a way of dis/avowing desires that she does not own: "On this occasion"—that is, before she learns the meaning of her father's sudden change—"I chanced to say that I thought Myrrha the best of Alfieri's tragedies; as I said this I chanced to cast my eyes on my father and met his: for the first time the expression of those beloved eyes displeased me" (20). Recognizing the literary dimensions, and nature, of this depiction of incest does not mean that it is any less real or traumatic for Mathilda. The point is precisely the opposite: the "reality" of it is not only psychical but fuelled by classics of literature.
This is a prescient insight into the centrality of literature in maintaining the phantasy and reality of incest. If Freud discovers the force of psychical reality in the process of abandoning the seduction theory, Shelley uncovers the role of literary classics in enforcing Oedipal phantasies. They at once inform such phantasies and are the only means through which they are (not) known. Matilda depicts this complex as guilt by literary association, neither to absolve nor condemn Mathilda, but to question the kind of responsibility any individual has for passions that are so pre-scripted: that is, both prescribed as classical—"high" and "good"—and aroused in beings in proportion to their receptivity to the literary. For Shelley the seductiveness of the classics is arresting in both senses: they convey heightened modes and forms of passion, often before a young reader has "real" experiences of them; they traumatize by bringing to consciousness desires and experiences that have been repressed both in the subject and by literary culture. Though a deeply arrested text—one of the most palpably traumatized and devoid of material reality in the entire literary tradition—Matilda, through its death-bed scene of narration, nonetheless gestures toward one way out. Daughter-creatures, give voice to your stories, even as—i.e., since—they threaten to kill you. In so doing, lessen the repression effected by a literary culture that has an illustrious history of curtailing "voices of life." In this, Shelley identifies one component of the resistance that psychical reality constitutes for the subject as the consistency of the fantasies avowed in and by the literary tradition: Oedipus, heterosex, heroic males, happy endings. Perhaps Shelley's most "romantic" and un-Freudian feature is her belief that a subject's phantasy world is freer—has got to be freer—than the world so far of literature. In retrospect, this appears to be the wish that drives her corpus even as that corpus struggles to make its way into the world of books.
Pre-Oedipus: The Modern Prometheus
It was a bold question[;] yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries.
There is no doubt that the creative artist feels toward his works like a father.
– Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood
This wish that drives her corpus receives its most conscious articulation in the 1831 re-issue of Frankenstein, where Shelley names her creature and book "hideous progeny" by way of accounting for their origins in her phantasies as a child- and adult, to which I will return. But the 1818 edition is already hard at work constructing component parts of psychical reality that await their application by Shelley to her "own" situation in 1831. Because of its explicit focus on science, exploration, and the world of men, Frankenstein appears to have more reality than the worldlessness that constitutes Matilda. We don't need Frankenstein to show us how deceiving looks can be, but no literary text is more comprehensive in its explorations of the enabling and deceptive features of reading for the constitution of phantasy and reality. Many scholars have emphasized the centrality of reading to the psychological formations of Victor and the Creature, and they have detailed the text's care in depicting what each of them reads, how they learn to read, and how what they read shapes their visions of reality. Fewer have taken seriously as a commentary on literature the inhumanity that is depicted as stemming directly from the world of books.
With Victor, the dynamic is better known at least on a surface level. Victor's interest in science is ascribed to an active fancy drawn initially to books of alchemy, the magic in and of which animates his apparent superseding of them. Medieval literature is thus positioned at the "origin" of scientific inquiry and portrayed as constitutive of empirical reality, and insufficient respect for it (the father's "sad trash") is alleged as the cause of the entire misery that eventuates. Put the other way, because the materialization of Victor's fantasy is perceived by him as having nothing to do with his prior imaginings, the visionary impulses that underlie them, or the beauty of the materials out of which the Creature is composed, Victor feels at once impelled and free to abandon him.
The Creature's indebtedness to the world of books is even more thoroughgoing because books are at the source of his creation and his best means of self-rearing. Because his progenitor abandons him owing to the claimed disjuncture between Victor's vision and the Creature's physical reality, the Creature is left to be parented largely by books. His earliest development relies on a mixture of empirical experience and lessons from books whereby books constitute empirical experience that goes beyond the bounds of immediate observation. Experience of the De Laceys epitomizes the near-identity for the Creature of persons and books, for the Creature observes them as if they are books and learns from reading them how to feel "human" and how to read books. As he tells it, observation of them constitutes his first "lessons" in familial relations, "of the difference of sexes; of the birth and growth of children; how the father doated on the smiles of the infant, . . . of brother, sister, and all the various relationships which bind one human being to another in mutual bonds" (90). The literary classics that he then reads (Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives, Sorrows of Werter) only intensify his knowledge of passion and consequent desire to experience passion in a personal, i.e., "real," way. The "effect of these books produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection" (95).
Recognition of the bi-polar affect aroused by his reading underscores the otherness that inhabits the world of books and the sense of alienation that access to book-knowledge often elicits. That is, at the same time that Frankenstein depicts books as essential to the formulation of phantasy and reality, it depicts them as unleashing a level of misery that is capable of annihilating either domain. For both Victor and the Creature, outrage is the consequence of discovering that external reality does not conform to the reality promised in and by books. This mismatch is especially dire for the Creature because of his necessary over-reliance on books. What occasions the misery that unleashes the Creature's monstrosity is his systematic exclusion from the reality promised and heightened by literature—especially, the reality promised by the books that the Creature actively reads, rather than overhears when still listening in on the De Laceys. For that province is fiction, the domain understood to heighten desire for connection for two reasons. In a sense applicable to all readers, the lure of great literature is the access it provides to heightened passion and extraordinary adventures not available to the average person (an assertion made in the 1818 preface, written by Percy Shelley). In a sense particular to the Creature, the world of fiction is closer to his reality than external reality, "born" as fictional character is out of an author's fancy and real to the extent that disbelief is suspended. The denial of these two constituents of fictional reality by material reality renders the Creature a fiend. Even worse, the Creature learns that he is excluded both from the paradise of fiction, all of whose characters are related to something and by someone, and from the fiction of paradise. "Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect." Even Satan, a "fitter emblem" than Adam of the Creature's reality, "had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested" (97).
The Creature's alienation raises, and re-poses, an existential question. Which must come first in the effort to form new realities: a work of a new species, or the capacity to recognize it and therefore have it affirmed? As the Creature discovers, for a life to exist, it must perceive itself as related in both moral and aesthetic senses. Its likeness to someone or something must be perceived so that it can feel affection and fit into an existing narrative. In showing the extent to which the realm of literature exacerbates misery for new beings, Frankenstein is scornful of the utopianism that underlies highly romantic claims for imagination. But this hardly discredits imagination or literature. Instead, it takes seriously the desires that they are capable of arousing and investigates the responsibility and response-ability of literature for and to those desires. What Frankenstein explores is the extimacy of the world of books, at once exterior to the subject and yet a vital part of inner life and interior processes. Something of this extimacy is voiced in one of the uncanniest passages in the text, wherein the Creature grounds his self-defense against charges of murder, a defense itself grounded in radical singularity, in a line of poetry written by Percy Shelley that speaks to the beyond-morality of any being who is unconnected to all others. "I was dependent on none, and related to none. 'The path of my departure was free;' and there was none to lament my annihilation" (96).
The implications of the extimacy of literature are crucial to the construction in Frankenstein of psychical reality. Some of its components are articulated through narrative commentary that stresses the irreality for Victor of characters other than the Creature and that, only when dead, assume a virtual reality: "he believes, that, when in dreams he holds converse with his friends, and derives from that communion consolation for his miseries, or excitements to his vengeance, that they are not the creations of his fancy, but the real beings who visit him from the regions of a remote world" (160). This is precisely not the phantasy of the dream that follows upon Victor's creation of the Creature, whereby a "blooming" Elizabeth is transformed into the "mummy" that Victor refuses to acknowledge and that drives his creativity/destructivity (40). Other commentary is less pathological. Resistance to substitution is shown as dependent on the chronological priority of one's attachments, whether to persons or things. "Even where the affections are not strongly moved by any superior excellence, the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds, which hardly any later friend can obtain" (161). The text also specifies what is requisite for books to get inside their reader: some new but precisely not-new event from the real world makes what has been read but not taken in now "come home." This is the one insight into psychical reality that Frankenstein ascribes to a female character. Before Justine's condemnation, Elizabeth states, "I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice, that I read in books or heard from others, as tales of ancient days, or imaginary evils; at least they were remote, and more familiar to reason than to imagination; but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood . . . Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?" (69). Or when literature constitutes so much of one's psyche or reality, where can certainty reside?
Viewed in this light, it is not such a stretch to view as the Promethean accomplishment of Frankenstein its construction through the Creature of psychical reality and construction of the Creature as psychical reality. Descriptions of the creation of the Creature specify the ingredients out of which psychical reality is composed: pieces of real, textual material that are made to cohere but in an anti-organic, a-developmental fashion. Moreover, these raw materials are said to be dead and buried, whether in church-yards and charnel houses or the moldy records of literary history; in both cases, they are corp(u)ses that are unearthed, pieced together, and re-animated. Descriptions of the consequences once it is activated emphasize what can make psychical reality monstrous, since it is not destined to be so. The "life of its own" that it appears to take on is difficult to manage because no one wants to claim responsibility for it—neither the authorizing ego nor the authors that shore up, and thereby divide, ego from psychical reality. Victor's consciousness is bent on denying this creature to the degree that it keeps manifesting the wish that animates his phantasies: annihilating women and family, loosening by tightening the ties that bind. Materialization of both wish and phantasy is monstrous to Victor, because his egoic coherence depends on denying the death-drive that he sublimes as life—especially the life of science, invention, and creativity.
Nor does the analysis stop here. For Frankenstein does not depict these phantasies as belonging only to Victor, but instead as stemming from medieval literature (at once, antiquated and alchemical) and as inhering in a class of men—prometheans—the strength of whose egos and thus of whose ego's defenses leave it to literature to voice what must remain unconscious in them. Moreover, not only does literature double as the unconscious in Frankenstein, articulating through displacement what the conscious narration denies, but those "unexplored regions" are shown to be already occupied by literature. This occupation of the unconscious by literature is key to the Creature's self-defense and is previewed in Walton's assurance to womankind that his approach to "unexplored regions, to 'the land of mist and snow'" is fueled by benevolent impulses (14). Indeed, the quoted literary phrase, "I shall kill no albatross," invokes the unconscious through the tell-tale negation, at the same time that its source, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, composed by the coiner of the term, "pscho-analytical," links archaic to modern in its exploration of exploration. While Frankenstein is relentless in its exposure of male ambition—which it depicts as clinical megalomania—it does not consign psychical reality via the Creature to monstrosity. Things could be different, but that requires expanding the literature that structures phantasy and reality.
"Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming"
We laymen have always been intensely curious to know. . . from what sources that strange being, the creative writer, draws his material, and how he manages to make such an impression on us with it and to arouse in us emotions of which, perhaps, we had not even thought ourselves capable.
– "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming"
I shall thus give a general answer to the question, so very frequently asked me—"How I, then a young girl, came to think of and to dilate upon so very hideous an idea?"
– 1831 Introduction to Frankenstein
Shelley's Introduction to the Standard Novels Edition re-issue of Frankenstein provides a rare look into its author's psyche that is also a striking anticipation of Freud's generic inquiry into how that strange being, the creative writer, comes by his or her material. Both authors look to early childhood for their answers, both underscore the determining role of childhood phantasies on the adult writer's choice of content, and both point to the temporal dynamism and shape-shifting capacities of phantasy, by which "past, present, and future are strung together, as it were, on the thread of the wish that runs through" the phantasies ("Creative" 148). The details that Shelley provides of the "waking dream" out of which Frankenstein emerges could hardly be clearer in delineating the chief elements of Freudian phantasy. It shows how the phantasy nature of day-dreams, deemed similar to the semi-conscious state of the fiction-writer, can interact with unconscious phantasies from infancy. It structures the phantasy as a wish less for an object than for a sequence in which the subject has a part—and a highly permutable part—to play. It typifies one primal phantasy scene, the family romance. Similar in each essay, too, is a tentativeness and defensiveness in tone that stems from shared anxieties over their respective places within their different professions. If here Freud looks to the creative writer for insight into processes more usually discerned by him in child's play or the analysis of neurotics, Shelley looks to her phantasy life as a means of dis/avowing the creatures she has spawned.
Precisely because of their different perspectives and methodologies, reading the two accounts together aids in discerning the place of literature in psychical reality. Not only because he treats the topic generically, Freud's account specifies the usefulness of creative writing in ways that bring into focus Shelley's more tormented version of phantasy-writing. One advantage for Freud is that creative writing restores pleasure to the revelation of adult phantasies, otherwise kept a secretive and intensely private domain, owing to the allegedly shameful nature (child's play) and typical content (infantile sexuality) of adult phantasy life. A second is that the fore-pleasure achieved by the aesthetic nature of creative writing—precisely the assurance that these are not unadorned phantasies, the knowledge of which, should a "layman" venture to communicate them, would "repel us or at least leave us cold"—allows us to receive the greater pleasure of being liberated, through reading an imaginative work, from "tensions in our minds" owing to unresolved conflicts ("Creative" 153). "It may even be" that this includes "enabling us thenceforward to enjoy our own day-dreams without self-reproach or shame" (ibid.)
Differences between the two writers begin to emerge when Freud elaborates the impelling wishes that underlie phantasies and which, according to him, creative writing at once ratifies and satisfies. While these wishes are said to "vary according to the sex, character and circumstances of the person who is having the phantasy," they "fall naturally" into "two main groups. They are either ambitious wishes, which serve to elevate the subject's personality; or they are erotic ones" ("Creative" 146-47). Not surprisingly, the two groups map onto gender categories. "In young women the erotic wishes predominate almost exclusively, for their ambition is as a rule absorbed by erotic trends. In young men egoistic and ambitious wishes come to the fore clearly enough alongside of erotic ones" (147). Freud emphasizes that his stress is less on the distinction than the fact that the two trends are "often united." Still, from the perspective of Shelley's life/writings, this schema itself appears as a wish—indeed, one that the treatment of gender in Frankenstein starts to analyze and that Shelley's "new species" of writing throughout her career is devoted to reworking. From her perspective, too, another use-value that Freud asserts on behalf of creative writing seems highly suspect—that it enhances a "feeling of security" that then allows readers to undertake "heroic actions" in "real life" because literature, especially romance literature, assures all would-be-heroes that "'Nothing can happen to me!" ("Creative" 150).
Obviously, Freud is not endorsing the phantasy but instead what this linkage between phantasy and creative writing reveals: we are in the domain of "His Majesty the Ego" who utilizes phantasy and literature to re-write reality more to his liking. And while Freud's comments here and elsewhere about how apparent contradictions to his theory actually support it make the baldness of his formulation less reductive of literature than it appears, one of his main points about the realm of creative writing is properly reductive: these works of imagination are not as original, unmotivated, from-out-of-nowhere as all that. They stem from childhood wishes and phantasies that both satisfy basic human desires and help to codify, when they do not assign names to, such desires. Interestingly, Wollstonecraft and Shelley have long been withheld from the ranks of creative writer on the grounds that their fiction is too prosaic, generic, or life-like for art. But Freud's formulation also serves to pinpoint the distinctiveness of Shelley's theory and practice of creative writing. In a general sense, hers appeals to a much less coherent ego for reasons that at times are conscious and intentional. Put a different way, her creative writing tends to explore the dark side of fiction's effects on the ego: not just how enunciation splits the subject but also how writing tears one apart—originally and subsequently.
A first level of her revision of Freud's formulation gets at the obvious gender bias that underlies the phrase or feeling, "nothing can happen to me," as well as the terms that undergird it—hero, invulnerable, action. Her version runs counter and inversely: from the "nothing is happening or ever will happen for me" of the heroines of Frankenstein, Matilda, and arguably The Last Man to the "something might happen to me" of the more active heroines of Valperga, The Adventures of Perkin Warbeck, Lodore and Falkner. The specific form that the "something" that can happen takes in Proserpine (abduction, rape, incest) suggests a second-level intervention. The knowledge that something terrible can happen to me should not be a justification for restricting access to experience, especially for girls. Shelley's creative writing is devoted to redesigning futurity on both of these fronts. The reality it is after makes room for the "something can happen" to women as historical agents and is less pathologically defensive or over-protective in facing that possibility. As a commentary on Freud's formulation, then, Shelley rejects both the applicability and the desirability of having this phantasy confirmed by literature. For her, the value of creative writing is in "preparing" readers for the inability to be prepared. This preparation includes a fundamental lack of assurance regarding the coherence of that "me."
Already a crucial subtext of Frankenstein, doubts regarding the security associated with creative writing are intensified in the 1831 Introduction, owing in part to the double nature of its inquiry: how accounting for the origins of Frankenstein requires an account of the author's origins and development as a child. Scholars often view this insecurity as "personal," as resulting from her gender and/or her status as girl child of famous writers. While part of the story, Shelley's account is more concerned with how the extimacy of literature, in cutting across both her phantasy- and real life, complicates self (or ego) formation. The episodes she narrates as constitutive of the authorship of Frankenstein all disarticulate phantasy from creative writing. Her earliest memories portray phantasy as the antidote to the narcissistic wounding associated with her "favourite pastime," which is "to 'write stories.'" While those "scribblings" are imitative, deferential, derivative, her "waking dreams" are "at once more fantastic and agreeable" because they are "all my own" (175). The conformity demanded by writing marks her girlhood writing style "common-place," as well as her life-experience as a girl. She contrasts both, again, to her "true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination," where "I did not make myself the heroine of my tale" but instead "people[d] the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age than my own sensations" (176).
A similar splitting attends descriptions of her young adult years, when "reality stood in the place of fiction" in the form of "my husband" and the contests over writing that he and the male world generate and signify (176). Descriptions of this period, in which writing fiction as a profession starts to become a reality for her, intensify confusion over the boundaries between these spheres—a confusion that is at once an authorial ruse and a subsequent theoretical position. On the one hand, Shelley asserts that the hideous idea is neither of her making nor of Percy's but arises "unbidden" from an "imagination" that "possessed and guided" her (179). On the other hand, her theory of creation as well as its applicability to the origin of Frankenstein stresses the necessity that something come before. "Invention" does not "consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded; it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself" (178). The Introduction enumerates the chaos of materials out of which Frankenstein is assembled: waking dream—German ghost stories—writings of Byron and P. Shelley—parents "of distinguished literary celebrity"—in sum and particular, phantasy objects that are haunting (175).
Descriptions of the waking dream push the dynamic to an extreme. "Unbidden" images rise up before her and us in all the vividness of the eventual text. "I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision . . . the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together;" the terrified "artist" who "would rush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken" in hopes that "this thing, which had received such imperfect animation would subside into dead matter," and so forth (179-80). Yet we miss a crucial insight into her creative practice if we conflate the waking dream with the composition of Frankenstein. Instead, she points out that the desperate effort to break free of the terror overwhelming her by that vision, by "exchang[ing] the ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around," was unsuccessful—"still it haunted me"—until, in a last-ditch effort to "think of something else[,] I recurred to my ghost story—my tiresome, unlucky ghost story," with the wish that "I could contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night." "Swift as light and as cheering," the "idea broke in upon me" that "I had thought of a story" (180). Thought—moreover, in the form of an "idea" that "I had thought"—intervenes to break her engulfment in terror and get the story going.
This is a stunningly detailed account of psycho-literary reality that positions the realm of creative writing between phantasy and reality and as the go-between. As depicted here, reality, in the sense of sense-based reality, is no match for phantasy. "I see them still; the very room, the dark parquet, the closed shutters with the moonlight struggling through," but "still [my hideous phantom] haunted me" (180). It is the reality of "my story," even as yet unconceived, that loosens the hold of phantasy. For this story is portrayed as doubly external to her—at once out of her reach and a distraction, a "something else to think of," that gets her out of her engulfment by phantasy. This disarticulation of phantasy from creative writing then aids in uncovering some of the wishes impelling either or both. One wish is thematized in the last part of the description of the waking dream, in the "hope" of the "horror-stricken artist" that, "left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation would subside into dead matter; and that he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life" (180). This wish is shown to be delusive—"behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside"—and thus generative of Frankenstein and of its counter to high romantic mystifications of literary creation. The other side to no creation ex nihilo is no annihilation. As novel and Introduction explore, try as they might, progenitors cannot destroy their creations once they have been conceived. Moreover, they lose control of them from the moment of their conception, which does not mean that they should cede all responsibility for what they have begun.
A related wish, more applicable to the re-issuing that comprises Shelley's notions of creativity, is the desire to begin anew, to be given a second chance at prosperity. The Introduction connects this desire to the reality that intensifies Shelley's affection for her hideous progeny, its association with life with Percy. The precise formulation is instructive for the ways that it connects the issue of un/mourning to the place of literature in psychical reality. "And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart" (180). We have heard this "but words" before. Indeed, they compose a female echo chamber in which Elizabeth's account of how the murder of Justine "brought home" the misery voiced in prior passages of text resonates with Mathilda's dis/avowals of the knowledge and cause of her misery: the word "love" in all its traumatizing literary associations.
As read back into the Introduction, the "unconscious" knowledge that attends these assertions of "happy days" is voiced once again by references to other literary texts, especially that History of the Inconstant Lover, the only one of the "volumes of ghost stories" that the Introduction seems compelled to name in its details of live converse with Percy (177). But, more fundamentally, when were "death and grief" ever "but words, that found no true echo" in Shelley's heart, born as she was through the death of a mother of "distinguished literary celebrity?" Actually, read in this light, the formulation is as demystified as it is idealized, since it is Shelley's distinctive fate to have learned her first words literally through the signifier of death, both the "M-A-R-Y" of Wollstonecraft’s tombstone and its literary remains—Wollstonecraft's fragmentary Lessons that instruct a young child how to read. In other words, in Shelley’s case, the reality of death is indissociable from her first words that precede experience of the meaning of death or grief. That comes later, in the form of many subsequent books and deaths that flesh out this "grief." To a sizeable extent, literature is Shelley's reality-test as much as the means by which she evaluates the adequacy of one to the other. The world of books informs her reality for better and worse. That is, the realm of creative writing informs her psychical reality and provides her surest, though still deeply tentative, way out into reality.
Shelley's insight into the reality-testing provided by creative writing is indebted to those two persons of distinguished literary celebrity whose romance sets the terms of the family romance of her psychical reality. Too large a topic to explore in detail here, I want to conclude by suggesting how two ramifications of her parents' promotion of reason as the path to perfectibility through their creative writings helps to concretize Shelley's origins and legacy as "author of Frankenstein." Part of Wollstonecraft's and Godwin's efforts to construct a better future entails writing and revising children's literature as a chief way to re-form the minds of the future, and part of that revision entails re-positioning fancy at the origin of rational enquiry. Opposing the binary logic that structures romantic debates on children's literature, whereby self-declared fantasists (Lamb, Coleridge, Wordsworth) counter the "cursed crew" of rationalists (Barbauld, Trimmer, Wollstonecraft) in the name of a less inhibited childhood, Wollstonecraft's and Godwin's writings for children portray the activation of fancy as indispensable to educing minds that are curious, wide-ranging, avid, perpetually open to research—perhaps even to Freud's "little sex researcher." As a means of so doing, their writings are particularly creative about concepts. They conceive fancy as inhering in the factuality of life, display the "facts of life" as informed by fiction and phantasy, and deem a young person's comprehension of such fact-fictions as central to achieving better options and life-choices. Moreover, this restructuring of reality is ventured through features of style that simulate the proximity of life to fiction and vice versa: announced in titles such as The Female Reader, Original Stories from Real Life, The Looking Glass; in articulations of method whereby books substitute for "live" textual mentors, history raises the dead, biography is Life; or in conceptions of individual character as generic ("a thinking woman," a "nobleman," a melancholic) but singular. Raised on such "facts," then, the question of how this young girl conceived the idea of animating a new species is not such a mystery. Frankenstein and the author of it are "logical" extensions of their progenitors' efforts to make a different world by composing works of a new species as and for children.
A second ramification stems from negative aspects of her parents' celebrity, their public status as a cause celébrè. This status owes less to their emancipated sex lives than to how their sex lives are seen to broadcast major discrepancies between what they write and how they live, especially as relates to family life. Allegations (still ongoing) of their incoherence on these matters, of how their actions as family members belie their promotion of autonomy, female rationality, and consequent rejection of marriage, are particularly problematic for writers like them whose political as well as authorial credentials are tied to progress at expanding spheres of reason. There is reason to counter that such charges often oversimplify what each of them means by rational activity as well as the large share that both grant to passion in activating, directing, and facilitating rational enquiry. But why bother when their incoherence illuminates part of what they are after in their promotions of reason: making reason responsible to the vagaries and befallen nature of living; exposing family values as antithetical to justice because unreceptive to difference? More to the point, their concept of inquiry understands error to be on the way to truth as long as it is not defended against but instead analyzed.
As bequeathed to Shelley, parental incoherence familiarizes her from early on with far more than the don't-do-as-I-do-but-do-as-I-say illogic of parenting. It grants her a "novel education," in all the complexity, retroaction, and necessary wandering that Deborah Britzman means to encompass by the term. In modeling how one's life often fails to live up to one's writings especially when the latter are directed at recreating the former, the life/writings of her progenitors display what education is after and why its progressive features keep it perpetually behind—often making the child fall behind. At the same time, they also suggest what can be liberating about the mismatch between what one writes and how one acts. Often books are better parents than one's parents, certainly at providing space for wandering—perhaps especially when one's parents are bookish people. Moreover, learning to perceive discrepancies between these domains is a crucial literary-life skill. It should not be grounds for invalidating either book or author but recognized as indicating the conflicts that need some working through. Shelley's life/writings adopt this novel education belatedly and half-heartedly, and after a period of extraordinary acting out (Frankenstein! Matilda! The Last Man!!). But that they come to it at all is a signal achievement, one under-recognized because of our preference for her more exhibitionist texts. One sign of her adoption of this novel education is revision of the futurity that the writings of her parents pursued: not of perfectibility but a minimal possibility that the act of writing signifies, especially as it works through grief. The sheer being-occupied-by-writing that is "discovered" in the writing of The Last Man represents a major step forward from the blankness of world and page that threatens to push her under. But it represents as well the desire that renders one's writings perpetually foreign, alien, to the self allegedly composing them in the hope that, down the line, they will render that self more coherent and bearable.
For a creature so informed by literary celebrity that all of her names are already famously occupied, the capacity to start anew is a real question. No wonder her girlhood wish is having a phantasy free from the inscriptions of others, where what makes it "my own" is not "mak[ing] myself the heroine of my tales" (175, 176). Later, conscious reflection indicates that she has begun in the wrong place in linking freedom to a phantasy from which one cannot break free without the intervention of judgment. This aspect of thought is what becomes freeing about her parents' determination to lead with the head and try to get the heart to follow, no matter the costs. If one bases one’s actions on what feels natural, intimate, personal, one is likely never to get farther along. At the same time, acting in line with an idea of change feels self-violating, because it is destructive of the habits that make the ego cohere. Thus, this making something of oneself is (no) child's play, but, as the life/writings of Shelley show, it is essential to forward-motion. Hers proceeds by not opposing reality to phantasy but utilizing the extimacy of literature to redesign all three. In this way, the melancholic "I was just getting started" of daughter Mary's birth and even Godwin's articulated mourning of Wollstonecraft is transformed into the "we're just getting started" of a life of psycho-literary analysis. For serious readers, recognizing the extimacy of literature restores to creative writing the portion of reality that is characteristic of child's play.
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1. I thank Joel Faflak for inviting me to be a part of this volume. I also thank Richard Caldwell, Lionel Corbett, Aranye Fradenburg, and Elisabeth Weber for providing helpful resources and commentary.
2. Though characterized as classic as well as romantic, Goethe remains the strongest German literary influence on Freud's thinking. For the fullest account of Goethe and Freud, see Rickels, Aberrations.
3. In pointing this out, The Language of Psychoanalysis differentiates Phantasie from Einbildungskraft in ways useful for understanding Shelley and her difference from other English romantic writers: "less in the philosophical sense of the faculty of imagining (Einbildungskraft) than in the sense of the world of the imagination, its contents and the creative activity which animates it" (Laplanche and Pontalis 314). Owing to Freud's illness, Anna Freud delivered the acceptance speech in his absence. On the Goethe prize, see Mahony 1-4.
4. For a general treatment, see Wollheim. For romantic connections on poetic minds, see McDayter. For an account of English romanticism's pre-theoretical invention of psychoanalysis, see Faflak. For a psychoanalytic account of romantic theories and practices of reading, see Jacobus, Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Reading.
5. For a critique of the developmental imperative, see Pyle.
7. On the false binaries underlying these debates, see Richardson and Myers. For a recent survey, see O'Malley.
8. The term appears first in the ur-text to Matilda, The Fields of Fancy (365) by way of connecting Mathilda to Proserpine, and later in Matilda (19). On the term and topic, see Graham Allen and Carlson 152-60.
9. For the importance of object-relations theory to the analysis of reading, the book-object, and learning, see Jacobus, Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Reading 1-51 and The Poetics of Psychoanalysis, and Britzman.
10. Kolarov's specific argument depends on not positing Freud's relation to Goethe (or Shakespeare) as transferential but instead as transmitting a core of their corpus that is not available to Oedipal dynamics.
11. See esp. Rajan, "Autonarration," and Shelley's proclivity for it in "Between Romance."
14. On precursors to Freud's discovery of the unconscious, see Ellenberger 53-181. See also Punter, who focuses more on the unconscious of romanticism than romanticism's discovery of it.
15. See esp. "The Unconscious" 187.
16. For the crucial Freudian texts and contexts, see Masson. For an argument about the use of literature in surviving incest, see Champagne, which includes a chapter on Mathilda (53-90).
17. Here I emphasize reception history since, as Rickels argues in the case of Frankenstein (The Vampire Lectures 287-300) and Jacobus in the case of Matilda (Psychoanalysis 172-77), both of these texts are marked by a refusal to mourn the mother.
18. See Francois and Mozes, Harpold, Jacobus, Psychoanalysis 165-201, Rajan, "Mary Shelley's Mathilda."
20. Jacobus, Psychoanalysis 196.
21. It is as if Shelley here addresses to the phantasies inspired by literature the question that Freud applies to dreams: "must one assume responsibility for the content of one's dreams?" Her answer is similar to Freud's: "I shall perhaps learn that what I am disavowing not only 'is' in me but sometimes 'acts' from out of me as well" ("Moral Responsibility" 132, 133).
22. To different ends, this is a point made by Jacobus, Psychoanalysis (194-201) and Champagne 3-6, 85-89.
25. One of the best remains Knoepflmacher.
26. Percy Shelley ascribes to imagination "the delineating of human passions more comprehensive and commanding than any which the ordinary relations of existing events can yield," which even the "most humble novelist" can enlist.
27. On extimacy in relation to the Thing, see Lacan, Seminar 139. On how books constitute their reality—that is, the techniques by which their objects are perceived as palpable and life-like—see Scarry, esp. 3-74.
28. Rickels, The Vampire Lectures 295. See also 282-83, 292-99.
29. Interestingly, this is another "psycho-analytic" insight that Freud ascribes to Goethe: his familiarity with "the incomparable strength of the first affective ties of human creatures" ("Address" 209).
30. "Creative Writers" 143. Philip Rieff's translation of the title, "Dichter und Phantasieren," as "The Relation of the Poet to Day-Dreaming" is more accurate (Dichter rarely being translated as "creative writer"), but the breadth implicit in Strachey's choice suits the scope of Freud's essay, which focuses on novels and considers the "less pretentious authors of novels, romances, and short stories" largely because they "have the widest and most eager circle of readers of both sexes" (149). The distinction he makes, between writers who, "like the ancient authors of epics and tragedies," take over their material ready-made from writers who "seem to originate their own material," indicates another way that the example of Shelley complicates such distinctions.
31. The equitability of Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein, Margaret Saville, and the Creature has often been noted – striking "proof" of "A Child is Being Beaten."
32. See Laplanche and Pontalis 314-18.
33. In his introduction to "Delusions and Dreams in Jensen's Gradiva" Strachey notes how Freud's studies of literature during 1906-7, especially "Delusions" and "Creative Writers," are connected to efforts to "please Jung" (4).
34. I deal with this claim in England's First Family of Writers, but would instance here the following legends from their biographies: Godwin's letters during Shelley's overwhelming grief at the death of William in which he instructs her to stop grieving or lose the love of those around her; the lines in Memoirs of the Author of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" where Godwin reports that Wollstonecraft on her death-bed had "nothing to communicate" about the care of her two daughters; or the many references in the press after 1805 that Godwin's writings fall "dead-born" from the press.
35. The best example of the first is the character Fanny Derham in Lodore (the one satisfied by a life of reading who does not aim after marriage); of the second, virtually all of the novels that deal with female character in a "feminist" fashion (Valperga, Adventures of Perkin Warbeck, Lodore, and Falkner).
36. The term is Tilottama Rajan's.
37. These debates are well-rehearsed in Jackson, Myers, O'Malley, Richardson, and Summerland.
38. See esp. Godwin's "Of History and Romance" (1797), which privileges the romance-writer above the historian on the grounds that "nothing is more uncertain, more contradictory, more unsatisfactory than the evidence of facts" (297) and Wollstonecraft's fragmentary "The Cave of Fancy: A Tale" (1787; pub. 1798) that, in linking female education to fancy, story, and better object choices, sets the novelistic agenda to follow.
39. The book as mentor equation is clearest at the end of Wollstonecraft's Original Stories from Real Life where Mrs. Mason presents her charges with a book of their prior experiences as a means of future counsel, but is thematized also in Mary, in Godwin's Fleetwood and Deloraine. History as necromancy is avowed in the Preface to Life of Chaucer (1803) and enacted in Essays on Sepulchres (1809).
40. Many of these critiques are readily visible in the collection of contemporary responses to their life/writings in Lives of the Great Romantics III: Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley By Their Contemporaries (Vol. 1 Godwin, ed. Pamela Clemit; vol. 2 Wollstonecraft, ed. Harriet Jump; vol. 3 Shelley, ed. Betty T. Bennet).
41. See esp. Godwin's "Essay of Scepticism" 302-11 and Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman 178-82.
42. Several aspects of Britzman's "psychoanalytic studies of learning and not learning," the subtitle to Novel Education, resonate with the life/writings of Shelley: recognition of how "cathetic loyalty" impedes rational or psycho-analysis (14); the fact that the "novel" aspect in psychoanalytic discourse is that it "allows for and welcomes its own incoherence for what it does not know, namely its own means of representation" (20); the definition (de Certeau's) of fiction as a "knowledge jeopardized and wounded by its otherness (the affect)" (210); the role of fancy and phantasy in a "pedagogical fact" (158-60).
43. See especially the footnote in Godwin's Essay on Sepulchres that makes an analogy between "progress" in the world and in school by way of explaining his assertion that "the world forever is, and in some degree for ever must be, in its infancy" (14n10).
44. At the end of Memoirs, Godwin specifies as what "I have for ever lost" through the untimely death of Wollstonecraft the redesigning of his mind that was in a preliminary stage through his daily proximity to the intellectual tact that characterized her mind. "This light was lent to me for a very short period, and is now extinguished for ever" (141).