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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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A Strong Woman Says Strong Words...
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Do you agree with the following criticism?


From Theodore Roszak's PURITANICAL PHYSICS, where he attacks the stereotypes in todays scientific communities.

In your book The Gendered Atom you examine the science of today through a close, insightful reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and feminist psychology. How have assumptions about gender shaped modern science?

[In the book] I drew very heavily on what I think is an exciting and significant new field called feminist psychology, because it seemed to me that it was very close to Mary Shelley's own viewpoint -- though, of course, she was not a psychologist or a professional therapist. It seemed to me that, in a certain sense, she was the first feminist psychologist, that she had an insight into science, which had no precedent, nobody had ever seen things this way before, recognizing the underlying sexual politics of modern science. That seemed to me so important an insight as part of feminist psychology, that I decided to start with her and thread my understanding of western science along the lines of this classic, gothic fable. From that point of view, you begin to recognize all sorts of very strange and skewed things about modern science. Especially those fields that have escaped a lot of criticism because they seem so very objective and empirical, the so-called hard sciences -- physics, for example.

This was a fruitful and curious coincidence... this leading facility for high energy physics directly across from the villa in which Mary Shelley dreamed up the Frankenstein story.

So I decided to go to the heart of the matter and take physics itself, seemingly the science that is freest of all distortion and to subject that to a feminist psychological analysis. Among the reasons this tied in with my theme so closely is a curious coincidence, both geographical and historical. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1816 at a villa on Lake Geneva called the Villa Diodati. She was staying there for several weeks. And it turns out that today, if you look across Lake Geneva from the terrace outside the bedroom windows of that villa, you are looking directly across the lake at what has been called the largest scientific machine ever built. It's the underground circular accelerator at CERN [the European Center for Nuclear Research]. That's where they smash the atoms smaller than anybody else does in the world, or at least up until recently. So it seemed to me this was a fruitful and curious coincidence, that you could find CERN, this leading facility for high energy physics, directly across from the villa in which Mary Shelley dreamed up the Frankenstein story. She discovered it in what she called a "waking dream," one night in the summer of 1816. That gave me a sort of a literary or metaphorical connection between the Frankenstein story and modern physics.

My response:

I agree with Roszak's interpretation of Mary Shelley. At the time in which she wrote the novel, science was not such an advanced field and at the same time, it was commendable that she knew so much about the field. The idea that she was a woman with such knowledge strengthens the possibilities of her strong woman qualities. Furthermore we must remember that her feminist mother wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, hence she had the feminist blood running through her.