‘Plainly stitched together’
Frankenstein, neo-Victorian fiction, and the palimpsestuous literary past
in Adapting Frankenstein
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Examining two pieces of revisionary historiographic metafiction, Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and Paul Di Filippo’s ‘Hottentots’, this essay suggests that the special relationship existing between neo-Victorian fiction and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein owes a great deal to the manner in which adaptation functions in both. Neo-Victorian fiction, which places nineteenth-century characters and tropes within retrofuturistic settings, relies on the principle of the palimpsest. In a palimpsestuous multiple texts remain visible within the primary text, which re-visions earlier pieces of literature in much the same way that adaptations of Shelley’s novel do. Di Filippo’s and Ackroyd’s texts – both of which allude to, appropriate, or adapt Shelley’s Frankenstein – demonstrate how the ‘hideous progeny’ of Mary Shelley’s imagination becomes an embodiment of the palimpsestuous narrative production central to both neo-Victorian fiction and adaptation.

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