Allan Lloyd Smith 1
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  • 1 University of East Anglia
‘This Thing of Darkness’
Racial Discourse in Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein
in Gothic Studies
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This article examines the effects of early anthropological accounts of other races in producing tropes for monstrosity in the Gothic, such as we see in Frankenstein where the monster, although not of any known race since he is hybridly created from parts of dead bodies, shares features with popular accounts of the racially other, echoes Haitian slave rebellion violence in his responses to ill treatment, and achieves his literacy and independence in the manner of popular slave narratives. Gothic tropes were sometimes employed in anti-slavery narratives such as Uncle Tom‘s Cabin, and many of the descriptions of brutality and terror in realist slave narratives are properly to be considered Gothic (and may in fact borrow from gothic fictional techniques). Slavery itself could be argued to outdo the Gothic in its actuality, as well as serving as a source for gothic fantasy. This provokes a rethinking of the now conventional assumption that Frankenstein‘s acknowledgement of responsibility for his creature implies that it does his unconscious bidding; on the contrary, Frankenstein admits his responsibility as a slaveholder might for the actions of his slave, but without in any way endorsing them.

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