Counterfactual obstetrics
Mary Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein
in Counterfactual Romanticism
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In creative-critical mode, this chapter develops a theory of critical obstetrics, exploring a series of counterfactual scenarios beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft’s recovery from puerperal fever in September 1797 and resulting in the ‘miracle counterfactual’ of (a version of) Mary’s Shelley’s Frankenstein being written by Wollstonecraft at the close of the 1790s. Analysing the nature of the counterfactual prompts that suggest such a scenario, the chapter uncannily appropriates Frankenstein as the mother’s text in order to explore not only what a necessarily ‘zombie’ Wollstonecraft might have gone on to create, but also the nature of our own critical and affective relation with her death. Seeking to challenge pious memorialisations of Wollstonecraft and the tyrannous stratifications of literary historiography, the chapter – in uncanny speculative mode – profiles the novel of the Irish Rebellion that Wollstonecraft went on to publish in 1799, delivering the reader into a refreshingly troubled relation both to Wollstonecraft and to her daughter’s novel.

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