Frankenstein and the Question of Human Development


ACLS Fellowship Program


Political Science


This book treats Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818) as a profound work of speculative fiction that engages fundamental philosophical questions concerning human development. The modern myth of Victor Frankenstein and his “Monster” suggests to her readers the moral limitations of Enlightenment-era perfectionist models of understanding humanity and its potentially limitless development through science, politics, or experimental models of family life and education. Shelley thus enabled her readers to think through a core set of moral problems related to the definition, purpose, and ethical scope of human life in society and politics, especially pertaining to the family and children’s rights to care and education. The book will have three parts: philosophical sources for the Frankenstein myth (including Milton, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Godwin); moral issues in the myth (understanding humanity and the family’s role in human development), and the myth’s political legacies (children’s rights).