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Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative

The Case of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Manuel Aguirre    Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Critical approaches to Gothic origins usually bear on theme and ideology rather
than on textuality. This article argues both that by the side of thematic issues we
must carefully examine the forms of Gothic and that, beyond the literary and
philosophical, the folk sources of Gothic remain to be acknowledged. Making use
of tools familiar to mythographer and folklorist, textual analysis of a passage from
the 1831 edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein reveals this novel is built on the
traditional narrative structure of the heroic quest; while Victor’s tragic destiny is
shown to result from a deliberate manipulation of traditional patterns.

Keywords: Faustus, folklore, Frankenstein, heroic biography, Sovereignty, the-

matic pattern

I begin with two contentions regarding the study of Gothic origins. Firstly,
that whereas much has been written about the sources and strains shaping the
genre, their relevance to it has been argued mainly on thematic and ideological
grounds, as bearing on subject-matter rather than on textuality.1 It is almost as
if a tacit admission prevailed that, writing-wise, Gothic would suffer from com-
parison with loftier matter. I submit that a formal kind of sourcing might provide
a different insight. In the second place, if, as Jerrold E. Hogle has proposed,
Gothic sets up and simultaneously problematizes a number of oppositions (life/
death, natural/supernatural, ancient/modern, unconscious/conscious and so on),
I suggest we should add to his list the pair culture/folklore as articulated since
the eighteenth century into a growing polarization.2 On the one hand, then, I
contend that beyond thematic concerns we must examine issues of form; on the
other hand that, beyond the literary and philosophical, the folk sources of Gothic
remain to be acknowledged. This article will test both claims on a fragment from
Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.

Gothic Studies, Volume 15, No. 2 (Nov 2013), published by Manchester University Press
­2 Gothic studies 15/2

I.  Folklore and Gothic

A standing problem in literary criticism remains the widespread prejudice against
ascribing literature to folk sources. As Alan Dundes suggests, ‘The vast majority of
literary source studies assume literary, not folklore, precursors and the inevitable
search is invariably for a missing manuscript rather than an oral tale’.3 It is not
as if the link between Gothic and folklore had gone totally unnoticed. Devendra
Varma wrote of Gothic romances as ‘adult fairy-tales’; David Punter describes
Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto as ‘light and airy, a fairy-tale rather than a night-
mare’; for Julia Briggs, the ghost story as a genre of Gothic derives ‘from folklore
and oral tales that have been told in the dark since people began to tell each other
stories.’4 But the Gothic-folklore connection has scarcely been pursued by critics;
the tendency, rather, is towards belittling it.5 Writing of the survival of the Middle
Ages in Gothic fiction, Chris Baldick significantly defines them in terms of folk-
lore but simultaneously disparages – for what seem problematic reasons – the
impact of the latter:

Some attraction to the imagined vitality of past ages is indeed always there in Gothic,
but this appeal consists principally in the imaginative freedoms and symbolic pos-
sibilities of discarded folk beliefs, not in any faith actually attached to them. When
Gothic fiction has employed the ghostly apparitions and omens of archaic lore (and
it has not always needed their aid at all), it has at the same time placed them under
strong suspicion as part of a cruelly repressive and deluded past.6

Such dismissive writing elicits important queries. Are folk concerns merely a
matter of ‘faith’ on the part of either the medievals or the moderns? How ‘dis-
carded’ were such concerns in the eighteenth century? Does not the term ‘archaic
lore’ actually misrepresent folklore, which was a ‘living’ lore for at least the rural,
that is, the majority of British population? Is folklore to be seen solely in terms of
contents (as the word ‘faith’ intimates) to the exclusion of forms or conventions?
There is a case for upending the terms of the debate here: for while casting all
manner of ostensible suspicions upon the superstitious past, Gothic literature, in
line with much eighteenth-century writing, actually delights in what Bishop Percy
called ‘rescuing from oblivion’ matter produced by ‘ages that had been almost lost
to memory’ – that is, in the wholesale recovery of a lore (much of it folklore) which
was felt to be fast vanishing in the growing urban environment.7 Novels such as
Godwin’s Caleb Williams, with its telling subtitle, Things As They Are, show that
Gothic writers soon learned to detect the survival of ‘the cruelly repressive and
deluded’ in contemporary culture.
Elsewhere, treatment of folklore in studies of horror fiction may amount to
comments on how a given narrative capitalizes on certain views of folklore; thus
both Ken Gelder’s and Markman Ellis’s pages on early British vampire fiction
discuss folklore only as a discipline, not as a lore.8 For the most part, however, folk-
lore simply does not come under consideration in studies of the genre. Punter and
Byron’s The Gothic barely alludes to it in passim;9 in his study of early French and
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­3

German Gothic, Terry Hale casually acknowledges (and through the case of one
single German novel) a link to the Märchen;10 Dani Cavallaro devotes a chapter
to the Gothic theme of the abandoned child,11 unaware that this belongs squarely
under motifs S300–78, ‘Abandoned and murdered children’, in the standard
Motif-Index of Folk Literature12 – unaware, thus, that she might be dealing not
with an eighteenth-century concern so much as with an inherited folk-narrative
convention. This situation is regrettable, because much could be learnt from con-
trasting analyses of language, structure, plot, characterization, imagery or motif.
A comparative grammar of folk- and Gothic tales remains to be written.
A word on terminology is necessary here. Folklore includes the prose narrative
genres of myth, legend and folktale, wondertales or fairytales being a subset of this
third group.13 While myth and, (in a different way) legend, are grounded in a belief
in the truth of their contents, folktales squarely disavow any such claim: in the
society in which they are told, ‘folktales are prose narratives which are regarded as
fiction. They are not considered as dogma or history.’14 Categories are not water-
tight. Literary texts may rework fairytale material (Kunstmärchen). Verse narra-
tive genres of folklore and literature, such as epic or ballad, may employ myth or
legend in a fictional mode. The Scandinavian saga or the French romance resort to
legend, folktale or epic, with varying degrees of appropriations from other genres.
And the literary debt to folklore need not be reduced to plot, theme or motif but
may as often concern structure, phrasing or convention. Gothic, I suggest, owes
a great debt to legend and folktale (especially in, respectively, their ghost-tale and
fairytale varieties), while also partaking of the nature of myth.15

II. Pattern
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been studied as an instance of science-fiction
horror; of the ‘explained supernatural’; of ‘female Gothic’;16 as a response to
evolutionary theory or to revolutionary times;17 as a critique of the age’s capi-
talist, patriarchal, imperialist drive;18 as a ‘[r]oman d’éducation, de voyage et
d’aventures maritimes; conte fantastique et allégorie; myth et “romance” ’.19 Much
is known about its philosophical sources – the work of Erasmus Darwin, Godwin,
Locke, Rousseau and the ongoing debates on evolution, identity, education, the
noble savage, science, rationalism, the Sublime.20 Due regard has been paid to the
novel’s literary ancestry – Classical texts, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Coleridge’s Rime
of the Ancient Mariner, Godwin’s Caleb Williams. Predictably, the back-cover
blurb of Botting’s 1995 critical anthology signals the importance of the novel ‘in
debates about gender, culture and politics’.21 While literary ‘influences’, theme
and motif, psychology and psychoanalysis, ideas or ideology receive their ample
share of attention from Shelley scholars, little has been done on the formal and
folklore aspects of her novel.
I stress the combination of these two. In the ‘formal’ area I will on the whole
not be concerned with specifically literary strategies. By ‘exploring the folklore in
Frankenstein’ I will not mean the study of folktales about, e.g., artificial men – this
­4 Gothic studies 15/2

would be yet another instance of the thematic approach.22 What I purpose in this
article is to suggest ways in which folk forms may lie at the root of our novel –
­specifically, I will suggest that Frankenstein adheres to an ‘architectural’ design
inherited from folk tradition, but one which it at the same time modifies in sig-
nificant ways. To this end I will examine in detail a fragment from the start of the
book, in which an embittered Victor Frankenstein tells Walton of his youthful
ambitions; subsequently I will compare it with the actual plot of the novel.

The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him and was acquainted with
their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more. He had partially
unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a
mystery. He might dissect, anatomize, and give names; but, not to speak of a final
cause, causes in their secondary and tertiary grades were utterly unknown to him.
I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human
beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined.
But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew
more […]. Under the guidance of my new preceptors I entered with the greatest
diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life; but the latter
soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory
would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and
render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!
Nor were these my only visions. The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liber-
ally accorded by my favourite authors. […]23

This fragment enjoys a special status in the book. Only the last seven lines
appeared in the 1818 text; the rest was added for the 1831 edition, in all likeli-
hood in order to provide a frame for suggestions scattered throughout the novel,
almost as if Shelley had ‘realized’ what she was relying on – a concept of mythic
dimensions which well merited an explicit statement somewhere near the start
of the quest. Summarizing the ‘plot’ of the narrative Victor had envisaged for
himself, the fragment is steeped in subjective viewpoint and value-judgments.
Terms like ‘here’ or ‘these’ accompanying past tenses, ‘seemed’, the exclama-
tive construction, or such statements as ‘Wealth was an inferior object’, are all
markers of free indirect style used to establish a (wavering) contrast between
narrative voice and character, with the older narrator’s wisdom both allowing
for and critiquing his youthful self’s enthusiasm. The fragment, in turn, refracts
Walton’s (and Clerval’s) aspirations, as well as the creature’s own ambition to
enter the human world. In other words, this fragment encapsulates much of the
book. It constitutes, however, Victor’s statement of intent rather than a summary
of the actual plot; and the discrepancies between the aspirations expressed in
the fragment and the realities of Victor’s experience shape the book’s tragic
In an enquiry as to the sources of this passage it would seem reasonable to speak
of a Faustian theme. Reflections on the limitations of existing disciplines, over-
reaching ambition, challenging a (whether or not divine) injunction, the desire
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­5

for a ‘forbidden’ knowledge or power as the key to success – these are some of
the theme’s essential features.24 But they are all abstract features; in its specifics,
save for that reference to the raising of devils, our text does not even resemble
those by Goethe – whose Faust-Fragment had appeared in 1790 – or Marlowe,
or the 1587 Faustbuch. We shall return to this difficulty below but, as a matter of
method, in order to thematize the passage we must ask what precisely it consists
of, and all its elements must be identified and related before we can successfully
interpret it. They include, among the most obvious, a scientist, a quest for knowl-
edge of Nature’s secrets, metaphors of Nature as a citadel and as a woman object
of desire, references to alchemy and magic. To speak here of a Faustian theme,
though legitimate, would abstract matters almost to a vanishing point. These ele-
ments, moreover, are organized – they do not constitute a mere collection but a
coherent system, one which can be brought out by expanding and arranging them
somewhat in the following way:

a) A scientist who stands for all human beings is bent on b) a search for knowledge
which he hopes will bring him c) to master ‘the hidden laws of nature’ (295). Nature
is d) personified as an immortal woman e) endowed with wonder and mystery, and
therefore an object of awe as well as of desire, f) whom philosophers have sought in vain
to ‘unveil’ and g) who seems therefore unreachable. Through the ruling metaphor of the
passage, h) she is also associated with a fortified citadel i) which he would enter and
conquer j) initially by means of alchemy and the occult arts, k) including the power to
conjure demons and spirits, l) later by means of science, in both instances m) guided
by authors whom he considers his ‘preceptors’. Success will bring n) immortality to the
human race and o) glory for himself.

Our theme in this fragment can be viewed as a configuration of actions or plot-

segments (b, c, f, i, n, o), characters (a, d, f, m) and character traits (e, g), settings
(h), images (d, h, i) and motifs (most items listed). Their conjunction, it is worth
stressing, is not cumulative but systemic. Alchemy and magic, for instance, do
not come in for mere atmospherics but as instruments of Victor’s endeavour;
while both ‘the most learned philosopher’ and the ‘preceptors’ have, as we shall
see, precise narrative functions in the economy of the fragment. I will call this
system a thematic pattern, and distinguish it from theme in the following way. A
theme is an abstract idea; a thematic pattern is a specific realization of the theme
and consists in a constellation of concrete elements arranged in various types
of predictable relations. Theme and pattern are like the two sides of a coin, but
the abstract nature of the theme makes it less amenable to modification than the
pattern; the latter has a decidedly historical nature and can be endlessly adjusted
so as to produce more or less unique versions of the theme in individual texts.
Three levels of abstraction, then, can be contemplated; from high to low these are
theme, pattern and text.
Our question as to the source of the fragment can now be reformulated as the
question, where does this thematic pattern come from? The answer will begin to
emerge if we but tighten up our presentation a little:
­6 Gothic studies 15/2

A hero sets out on a quest that involves entering a space – a citadel – characterized
by wonder and mystery and thus qualitatively different from human space. The quest
further involves resorting to learned individuals for means to overmaster a female
figure of power associated with the citadel and thought to be unapproachable, and
wresting from her a boon of universal value – the secret of life. His own glory will be an
outcome of this quest while his victory will release humanity from death.

The ultimate goal (to bring knowledge of this secret to humankind) accounts for
the subtitle of the novel (The Modern Prometheus) and confirms the heroic status
of its protagonist (whose quest is not for wealth but for glory). But, viewed in this
light, our thematic pattern has an old critical history: it can be identified in the
so-called Heroic-Biography genre of criticism.
Many scholars since the nineteenth century have endeavoured to put together
a model for the study of the hero’s adventure in both literary and folk narratives.
Some of these approaches suffer from too arbitrary or too episodic an approach
(e.g., Von Hahn’s and Raglan’s approaches offer lists of often unrelated inci-
dents).25 Some, like Rank’s or Dundes’, are dominated by one exceedingly narrow
concern, to prove that all myths cast an Oedipus complex into fiction.26 But what
all such approaches share beyond their individual traits and quirks is an aware-
ness that the heroic adventure everywhere consists of some manner of journey
towards a privileged site, an encounter with numinous powers, the obtention of a
boon, and a return to the human world. Myth, epic, romance, saga, legend, ballad
and folktale all play variations on some such pattern. It is my contention that this
pattern accounts for our fragment and that, with a few significant adjustments, it
lies at the root of Frankenstein.
Because the pattern is found at its simplest and clearest in fairytales, my discus-
sion will mostly resort to fairytale convention as a template, but other conven-
tions (such as those of myth or the folk ghost-story) will be relevant too. The
analysis below is based on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces,
one of the most comprehensive studies of the Heroic Biography to date, and one
which neatly brings out the organization of the pattern.27 For ease of reference I
have italicized and numbered Campbell’s stages. Not every stage predicted by the
model need be found in every narrative.

III.  The Adventure of the Hero

A herald or guide summons the hero to a quest. He proceeds or is lured to the thresh-
old of adventure, beyond which lies ‘the kingdom of the dark’. Victor Frankenstein
comes accidentally upon magical and alchemical works which spur him onto his
quest. Campbell’s ‘kingdom of the dark’ is refracted both in the ‘citadel of nature’
and in the haunted castles of Gothic fiction, folktale and medieval romance.28 ‘The
essence of a Gothic work,’ wrote Frederick Frank, ‘is [a] crossover from a safe and
orderly deistic universe into a strange and fearful region presided over by demons
[…]’.29 This brings Gothic in line with a tradition of folk and literary texts con-
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­7

cerned with literal or metaphorical journeys of discovery – or, as Victor puts it,
with a move to ‘step within the threshold of real knowledge.’ (300).
Campbell’s model is directly indebted to anthropological insights into rites of
passage; in Van Gennep’s classic formulation these are of three kinds.30 Preliminal
rites (rites of separation) disengage initiands from their customary world; liminal
rites (rites of the threshold) subject them to a series of initiatory trials; and
postliminal rites (rites of incorporation) bring them back (albeit altered) to the
social world. These stages are conceptualized as so many ‘territories’ of which the
middle one (which finds folk and literary equivalents in the far-away kingdom,
the labyrinth, the Frontier, the forest, the haunted castle) constitutes a zone of
paradox, ambiguity and contradiction, ‘a place that is not a place’.31
This middle stage typically includes some manner of exchange whereby some-
thing is surrendered as a condition for advance. Thus, the initiand in liminal rites
is despoiled and threatened with confusion, maiming or destruction; the fairytale
hero must feed the great eagle that flies him to his destination and, when it has run
out of sustenance, feed it his own flesh; ten years of hardship and the lives of his
companions are the price of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca; to safeguard the honour
of Arthur’s court Gawain must leave the comfort of Camelot and journey towards
an uncertain fate at the Green Chapel. One common expression of this principle
is, of course, self-sacrifice as prerequisite for rebirth. What we shall generally
notice is a disjunction between our fragment and the actual plot of Victor’s nar-
rative, which is to say between his folklore-inspired dreams and the reality of his
tragic quest.

2. Refusal of the Call. Should the hero turn a deaf ear to it, a destructive power will
blight his attempts at leading an ordinary life. Having become acquainted with the
theory of electricity, a disappointed Victor dismisses alchemy and magic. What is
significant here is that the agency that puts him off his initial pursuit is identified
by Victor the narrator, with hindsight, as ‘the guardian angel of my life – the last
effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then
hanging in the stars’ (301). This inverts the values of the traditional pattern, equat-
ing quest with catastrophe.

3. Acceptance of the Call. A chance encounter with a helper, teacher, tempter or

initiatory priest provides him with the first assistance for the quest. After meeting
professors Krempe and, especially, Waldmann, Victor takes up natural philoso-
phy, the modern instrument of knowledge and power. However, this encounter
will be viewed as a manifestation of ‘the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction,
which asserted omnipotent sway over me’ (305). As the ‘guardian angel’ enjoined
restraint, the power that furthers the hero’s advance is confirmed as deadly.

4. The Crossing of the Threshold. He encounters the Threshold Guardian, an

ambivalent figure who watches over the established bounds but who, through the
gift of higher wisdom or divine enthusiasm, may grant access to a new zone of
­8 Gothic studies 15/2

experience. Waldmann performs this role by instilling in Victor ‘an almost super-
natural enthusiasm’ (311). Henceforward, seized with ‘a resistless and almost
frantic impulse’ (315), Victor spends ‘days and nights in vaults and charnel
houses’ devoted to ‘unlawful studies’ (316), ‘until from the midst of this darkness
a sudden light broke in upon me – a light so brilliant and wondrous […]’ (312).
Furthermore, as Mary Poovey points out, ‘Just as Waldmann is the external cata-
lyst that precipitates Frankenstein’s “destiny”, so Victor serves as the critical agent
for Walton’.32 Indeed, in Victor Walton finds an equally ardent, though ambigu-
ous, Threshold Guardian. We will suggest later that essentially the same thematic
pattern guides the three major narrative strands in the novel.

5. Venturing into the Dark. He crosses into the temple, is swallowed by a monster,
undergoes dismemberment, descends in death, or else enters the kingdom of the
dark alive. Beyond the threshold, he journeys through a world of ‘unfamiliar yet
strangely intimate forces’, some of which threaten him (tests), while some give
magical aid (helpers). The whole adventure is ‘a transit into a sphere of rebirth.’ 33
From now on Victor dwells in complete isolation, engaged in ‘midnight labours’
(314) in his workshop, ‘a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house,
and separated from all the other apartments’ (315), a veritable temple of darkness
where he undergoes various trials of hope and despondency. While ‘pursuing
nature to her hiding-places’ (314) he feels like one ‘doomed by slavery to toil in
the mines’ (316). Though this is an attic space, the imagery is predictably one not
only of seclusion but of descent and entombment. His workshop is the citadel of

6. At the nadir of the mythological round he undergoes a supreme ordeal. The actual
task of creating life, with its accompanying spiritual tortures, spans the whole of
chapter 4. Here images of dismemberment abound, but (another departure from
traditional tales) they do not concern him but some Other: Victor does not seek
his own rebirth but rather the birth of a creature distinct from himself.

7. Obtention of the boon (gift of drink, food, fire, grace; bride-theft, fire-theft). His
reward will correspond to that found in the Prometheus myth: having ‘usurped’
the power of life, his boon shall indeed be a stolen fire, and the light ‘brilliant and
wondrous’ of his theoretical discovery (stage 4) shall become that ‘spark of being’
he is to infuse into a lifeless body (318).

IV.  The Sovereignty Pattern

Before continuing with our analysis we need some more precision of detail.
Thematic patterns, as mentioned above, can be modulated into concrete nar-
rative developments. At least two related realizations of the Heroic Biography
pattern are discernible in Frankenstein: one is the Faustian, to which we shall
return below; the other is shaped by a theme so far studied mainly by Celtic and
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­9

Scandinavian scholars in folk and literary texts – the theme of Sovereignty.34 In

this particular version of the Heroic Adventure the hero encounters a female
figure of power (goddess, fairy, witch, queen, personified abstraction) who rules
or represents an Other domain (city, castle, alien kingdom, underworld, faerie).
She is hostile to the hero, or else harassed by suitors or oppressed by a tyrannical
consort or parent. Before being granted the Sovereignty of her realm or a mark of
favour or pre-eminence the hero is tested in ways which include braving her (often
monstrous) manifestations or else her consort, offspring or attendants. She offers
(or refuses) him a variety of gifts: sword, armour, clothing, or a drink betoken-
ing inspiration or power.35 Elsewhere she offers (or refuses, or is made to refuse)
herself to him, for sexual possession of her is one way of obtaining dominion over
her realm. The tale-types of ‘The Maiden in the Tower’ (AT310), ‘Sleeping Beauty’
(AT410), ‘Three Hairs from the Devil’s Beard’ (AT461), ‘Faithful John’ (AT516),
‘Snow White’ (AT709) and many others all gravitate around this encounter.36 So,
also, do the stories of Jason and Medea, Aeneas and Dido, Odysseus and Circe,
Sigurd and Brynhild all enact variations on the Sovereignty pattern.
Whatever the ultimate significance of this pattern, our passage fully adheres
to it. Nature is personified as a female figure dwelling in a mysterious space (her
citadel) behind the threshold (veil, fortifications). She holds power, and elsewhere
in the novel she is depicted as a queen: she is ‘awful and majestic’ (361), the snowy
mountains are said to be ‘the palaces of nature’ (336), the valley of the Arveiron
is metaphorized as ‘the glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature’ (360). Her
forbidding aspect is entailed by the concept of a fortified citadel; at the same time,
she is an object of desire, as the expression ‘unveiling the face of nature’ suggests.
At page 284 Victor ruefully asks Walton, ‘Have you drunk also of the intoxicating
draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!’
This draught (the tantalizing promise of knowledge and power that Nature lets
the ambitious glimpse) is one of the Sovereignty’s appurtenances. In other words,
Nature in Frankenstein is an avatar of the Sovereignty.

8. Sexual union with the Queen Goddess of the World (hierogamy). As presented
in the fragment, Nature should closely correspond to this ‘Queen-Goddess of the
World’; but the novel subverts the traditional hero’s union with this figure, for
what takes place between Victor and Nature is a travesty of hierogamy. The terms
‘unveiling’, ‘entering’, ‘penetrating’ (this last associated with ‘knowledge’) leave
no doubt that Victor intends a metaphorical ravishment of Nature.37 His taking
possession of her ‘citadel’ will lead to the creation of a ‘son’ by violating the earth
wherein dead bodies lie; so that the creature is the offspring of rape.
This point merits further consideration. Homans writes that Victor began his
reading in natural philosophy ‘despite his father’s prohibition’.38 Perusal of the
novel disallows this claim, but some such transgression will unfortunately be pos-
tulated by critics bent on concluding that Victor, because he has searched graves
and tampered with human bodies, has committed ‘an Oedipal violation of Mother
Nature’; yet more unaccountable is the claim that ‘[t]he mother he rapes is dead’.39
­10 Gothic studies 15/2

But the charges against him (matricide, rape, incest, necrophilia) fail to explain
why Nature should be very much alive (and friendly) for Victor at subsequent
periods. Of the fifty-five occurrences of the word ‘nature’ in Frankenstein, only
once is she – and then only on the strength of her consolatory power – identified
as ‘maternal’ (358). The concept of ‘Mother Nature’ simply does not appear in the
book; but if it is to be surmised, it will emerge only by implication in the ‘birth’ of
the creature.
Not so, certainly, for critics who see Victor as ‘trying to have a baby without
a woman’40 or claim that he ‘gives birth by intellectual parturition to a giant
monster’41 or that ‘this is a male birth, […] birth from a father/mother who has
rigorously eschewed nature’.42 But such readings miss the point that on the sym-
bolic plane adumbrated in our fragment Victor does take recourse to a female
figure, Nature, as the mother of his creature. The latter is then not a motherless
but an illegitimate child, a bastard Victor will not acknowledge. Indeed, this ini-
tially innocent, noble savage is but a version of that eighteenth-century theme,
the child of nature, albeit of a nature abused, degraded and all but ignored by his

9. Recognition by the father-creator (father-atonement). There is nothing in

Victor’s narrative to correspond to this stage. But in the creature’s account of
himself it figures all too prominently; see below.

10. The hero’s divinization. Another outcome of the traditional adventure, the
hero’s apotheosis, is turned upside down. Victor has come to inhabit a Miltonian
Other space in which ‘I bore a hell within me which nothing could extinguish’
(351), ‘I wandered like an evil spirit’ (353), ‘I walked […] like a restless spectre’
(439), ‘I […] carried about me my eternal hell’ (476), ‘like the archangel who
aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell’ (484). In place of divi-
nization he has become a demonic being. As he says – again employing the (now
perverted) metaphor of the draught, and adding in the Miltonian oxymoron of
darkness visible – ‘The cup of life was poisoned forever, and although the sun
shone upon me, […] I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness,
penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me’ (453).
He has gained a power (the cup of life, the Sovereignty of nature) which merely
dooms him, and as a satanic entity he roams (like the protagonists of Godwin’s
Caleb Williams, Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer or Lewis’ The Monk) a world
that has turned into a labyrinth, the liminal space of ‘an eternal hell’.

11. The hero sets forth under the protection of the benign powers, or he flees and is
pursued. No ‘benign powers’ preside over Victor’s progress at this point; rather,
the Threshold Guardian he has raised will try and prevent the usurper from
returning home with his boon. Three major stages remain in Campbell’s analysis
(12. At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; 13. The
hero re-emerges from the kingdom of dread; 14. The boon that he brings restores the
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­11

world). At least 14 is implied in our fragment, but none of them will be applicable
to Victor’s actual experience. Unlike in fairytales, there will be no reaching the
return threshold, and Victor will be lost in the desolation of the Other symbolized
by the polar wastes.

V.  Heroes and Protagonists

Such imprisoning loci abound in fairytales. In ‘Three Hairs from the Devil’s
Beard’ (AT461) the evil king is doomed forever to ferry passengers across a river.
In several versions of ‘The Dragon Slayer’ (AT300) seekers must enter a Castle-
of-No-Return. Heroes, however, regularly manage to come back. Since we have
postulated that actions and characters in Gothic follow a model suitable for the
description of fairytales, and since so many Gothic heroes are yet lost in the numi-
nous realm, we must ask ourselves whether some rule of folklore is being violated
in our genre. The answer is simple: Gothic abides by fairytale narrative rules; it is
only that the Gothic individual who crosses over into the Other is no real hero.
The title characters of The Monk, Melmoth the Wanderer or Vathek are vil-
lainous figures who, in keeping with fairytale convention, wander into and are
lost in figurative labyrinths.44 On the other hand, in The Castle of Otranto or
Frankenstein it is not so much that Manfred or Victor have crossed some intan-
gible line into another domain as that their own world has been contaminated
– ‘alienated’ – by the Other’s presence. In both types of narrative the central char-
acter is the false hero, the unsuccessful seeker or the villain of fairytales, placed by
Gothic in the protagonist slot but, in true fairytale fashion, doomed to bungle the
quest. A key to Gothic thus resides in its centring the flawed character as protago-
nist. The result is a hero who is not a hero, a liminal figure marked by ambiguity
and a tragic destiny. Conversely, in Gothic the standard hero of traditional tales
is often demoted to a helpless or passive stance: Walpole’s Theodore (The Castle
of Otranto), Radcliffe’s Valancourt (The Mysteries of Udolpho), Godwin’s Caleb
Williams turn out to be mostly witnesses or victims.
With exceptions, the hero of tradition is young, aspiring, and fights the oppo-
nents of change (ogre, dragon, witch, tyrant, haughty princess). He is often the
offspring of an unusual conception, or else one of his parents is of alien or divine
origin; his liminal nature thus heralds change and renewal (Campbell’s ‘restora-
tion of the world’ at 14).45 Whereas the tale of Victor Frankenstein is that of the
false hero centred as protagonist, the tale of his creature (son of man and the
Other, Nature) is a decentred and thwarted version of the heroic ‘biography’. In
folklore terms we could say that Shelley selected for her protagonist a subordinate
figure, the tyrannical father who opposes the rise of his own son, and relegated the
traditional hero – the son – to a secondary, even nameless position. Translated
into Classical terms, our analysis brings into question Oedipal interpretations of
Victor’s role, revealing instead a tragedy which, as concerns his story, resembles
primarily not that of Oedipus but rather of Laius.
If Laius’ nemesis is his son, so is the Creature Victor’s bane. In the mirror
­12 Gothic studies 15/2

symmetry that binds them, the thresholds behind which he is seen (or thought)
to lurk – doors in chapters 5 or 11, casements in chapters 20 and 23 – are but
replicas of that opened up by his creator’s deed. The hero of his own narrative
strand, he pursues a goal – to enter human society – that will forever elude him.
Despite being fleetingly welcomed in by (blind) De Lacey, he is quickly cast out
of ‘the habitations of man’ (414) by the jealous keepers of the (human) threshold;
he seeks a hierogamy that will be nearly granted but ultimately denied him, and
a recognition by his father-creator destined never to take place; as a result he
too, refracting Milton, will identify with the Evil One (‘Many times I considered
Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition’ [396]; ‘I, like the archfiend, bore a hell
within me’ [403]; ‘Evil […] became my good’ [493]); and he may interfere with,
but never enter the human world. The existence of this second plotline destabilizes
the first, for so long as their legitimacy is questioned by the other neither of the
two protagonists can function effectively as heroes.
It is well known that fairytales express all qualities by means of action46 and
convey the significance of the hero’s undertaking through parallelism, recurrence
or precedent. Key figures in the genre are therefore the hero’s precursors. The
heads of nine unsuccessful suitors serve as a warning of the dangers facing the
hero in ‘The Princess Who Cannot Solve the Riddle’ (AT851); without the failure
of the many princes perished in the magic briar hedge we have no proper measure
of the hero’s exploit in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (AT410). Such is, in our fragment, the
logic of that reference to ‘the most learned philosopher’, said to have advanced
little beyond the ‘untaught peasant’ in the enquiry into nature’s secrets: the datum
does not simply convey chagrin over human powerlessness in the face of the
Numinous but alludes to those precursors needed for a proper assessment of the
task’s magnitude. The tragic irony is that Victor goes far beyond the philosophers’
dreams only to discover that he is but one more failed precursor of another’s
For Walton, too, runs the heroic gauntlet and, having reached the ice barrier,
encounters his own Threshold Guardian – Victor himself, like another Ancient
Mariner bearing a tale that cools down the younger man’s zest and uttering words
of caution (‘Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition’ [491]). There is
much narrative irony in Walton’s reassuring words to his sister, ‘I shall kill no
albatross’ (276): aspiring to a heroic status, his was not to be the role of a second
Mariner but that of the Wedding Guest – not a hero but a listener to and recorder
of Victor’s deeds. Again, these two characters destabilize one another’s roles.
From the centring of the flawed hero as protagonist we can thus infer every
major modification of the pattern. As in the case of fairytale tyrants, Victor’s
primary interest lies in self-preservation; instead of a surrender of self as precon-
dition for rebirth (stages 1, 6) he seeks the birth of another. For his enterprise to
succeed he must attempt to control the Other rather than allow it to overpower
him; this motivates his antagonistic conduct towards Nature. Her role as holder
of Sovereignty is accordingly degraded and muted – hierogamy becomes rape.
But then, this subversion further disturbs the entire pattern: apotheosis becomes
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­13

demonization, success failure. Because he opposes the Other everything the Other
yields will be viewed as hostile; and this will include the creature, who, though
placed in the Villain’s role, at the same time – inasmuch as he fights his ‘tyrant and
tormentor’ (438) – displays heroic traits. And the multiple, and conflicting, plot-
strands (as against the single strand of fairytales) are in turn a logical outcome of
the novel’s destabilization of the traditional tale. The Heroic Adventure pattern
informs all three major narrative strands, but their three protagonists fail the test
of heroism and thereby highlight a basic flaw in the hero. All major changes vis-
a-vis fairytales seem thus congruent with one simple but far-reaching alteration:
the centring of the flawed hero and the corresponding displacement of traditional
hero-figures to positions of irrelevance or futility. Even where Shelley’s novel is
at variance with the traditional pattern the differences can be accounted for as
meaningful modifications wrought upon the latter.

VI.  The Faustian Pattern

Displaying a Christianized avatar of the Threshold Guardian, the Faustian theme
constitutes another version of the Heroic Adventure pattern. Baldick contends
that ‘If Frankenstein is any kind of Faust, he is a Faust without a Mephisto, that is,
hardly a Faust at all’.47 But only five years after the publication of Shelley’s novel
R. B. Peake’s melodramatic adaptation did make the point – in the words of his
Frankenstein’s servant Fritz – that ‘Like Doctor Faustus, my master is raising the
Devil’:48 already then the Frankenstein theme was being drawn into the orbit of
the Faustian one.
Marlowe’s tempter is but another version of the Threshold Guardian; where
the latter was summoned he is now created – in both cases ‘raised’; the novel
contains its own symbolic versions of the good and evil angels that advise
Marlowe’s Faustus (stages 2 and 3); and structurally the creature’s function is that
of ‘tempting’ Victor (and this ‘pact’ is central to the second half of the novel) with
the promise of peace if he will but make him a mate. Hence the affinity that we
acknowledge between Doctor Frankenstein and Doctor Faustus is justified not so
much by abstract theme or narrative detail but precisely by the thematic pattern
their texts share and (each in its own way) adapt.
That this is essentially a folk pattern is borne out by the fact that legend lies at
the root of the tale of Faustus, whose pact with the Devil is a plain Christian folk-
motif (M201–M217 in Thompson’s Motif Index) and whose story is first cousin
to those of Cyprian, Theophilus, Gil de Sentarém or Mariken van Nieumeghen,
all of popular stamp. There is thus a rich intertextuality implicit in a Faustian
reading of Frankenstein, but which Faust-text does the novel refract, or which
Faust-author is to be pointed at? Shelley’s debt in this respect is not to a book so
much as to a pattern – and one which, to judge by Beckford’s Vathek, Lewis’s The
Monk or Dacre’s Zofloya, had already permeated Gothic in Mary Shelley’s day. In
the words of Stith Thompson, ‘The details of this bargain and the dealings between
man and the evil one have interested not only men like Goethe or Marlowe but
­14 Gothic studies 15/2

many more humble bearers of tradition since the Middle Ages’.49 It is in the pow-
erful wake of this tradition that Mary Shelley works.

VII. Conclusions
Frankenstein appears indebted to a tradition of dangerous castles to be stormed
by daring heroes; to a blueprint of heroic ‘biographies’ common to myth, epic,
legend and folktale; to a convention of an empowering female at the centre of the
Otherworld; and to a Faustian strain – in short, not just to a text or a figure (or set
of them) but to traditional configurations in which characters, plot-types, motifs
and narrative structures are inextricably woven. It seems legitimate to extend the
hypothesis to the Gothic genre as such and to postulate that, beyond its debt to
literary and philosophical sources, Gothic derives from myth, legend and folktale.
To return to my initial contentions, part of the reason for our efforts to ennoble
Gothic through exclusive reliance on themes may be found in our diffidence
regarding its literary quality. Bolder than most critics, Napier bemoans its super-
ficial and formulaic nature and writes of the genre’s ‘failure’.50 Such assessments
are only relative to the criteria one appeals to; and Gothic, so often found wanting
if measured by literary standards, might elicit different critical attitudes if looked
at from the perspective of folklore studies. Assuming that part of the genre’s
function is the preservation of a fast-disappearing folklore should lead to a reas-
sessment of Gothic as an able compromise (as much on formal as on thematic
grounds) between oral tradition and literary demands. According to Hogle,
Gothic sets up and at the same time questions a number of oppositions; in the
light of the preceding, I would suggest that Gothic’s function might rather be one
of mediating between oppositions, and note that Lévi-Strauss assigns just this role
to mythical thought;51 whence it would follow that Gothic ought to be studied as
a modern mythological system,52 one that has lent a new lease of life to a folklore
threatened with obsolescence.
Some such approach seems at any rate to be called for in Frankenstein. Sourcing
this novel turns out to be a far more complex issue than might have been envis-
aged and one which invites assistance from the direction of folklore studies. In
particular, the novel’s reliance on a thematic pattern such as outlined in this
article bespeaks a tradition in which it would be pointless to seek to isolate indi-
vidual texts. At least for popular-culture genres close to folklore it can be hypoth-
esized that the pattern, not the single text, is the true source.

 1 On such sources as Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, ‘Graveyard School’ poetry,
sentimental fiction, Burke’s philosophy of the Sublime, Orientalist and medievalizing
trends or the German Sturm-und-Drang see, e.g., David Punter, The Literature of
Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day (London: Longman,
1980), Chapter 2; Robert Miles, Gothic Writing, 1750–1820: A Genealogy (London:
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­15

Routledge, 1993); Emma Clery, ‘The Genesis of “Gothic” Fiction’, in J. E. Hogle (ed.),
The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2002), pp. 21–39.
  2 Jerrold E. Hogle, ‘Introduction: The Gothic in Western Culture’, in J. E. Hogle (ed.),
The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2002), pp. 1–20, at p. 9.
  3 Alan Dundes, ‘“To Love My Father All”: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Folktale Source
of King Lear’, in Alan Dundes (ed.), Interpreting Folklore (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1980), 211–22, p. 212.
 4 D. P. Varma, The Gothic Flame: Being a History of the Gothic Novel in England
(Metuchen, N.J. & London: The Scarecrow Press, 1957), pp. 17, 216; Punter, The
Literature of Terror, p. 49; Julia Briggs, ‘The Ghost Story’, in David Punter (ed.), A
Companion to the Gothic (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 122–31, at p. 123.
  5 For some exceptions see H. Dorner-Bachmann, Erzählstruktur und Texttheorie. Zu
den Grundlagen einer Erzähltheorie unter besonderer analytischer Berücksichtigung
des Märchens und der “Gothic Novel (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1979); P. Bridgwater,
Kafka, Gothic and Fairytale (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003); M. Aguirre and E. Ardoy,
‘Narrative Morphology in Barbauld’s “Sir Bertrand: A Fragment” ’ (Madrid: The
Gateway Press, The Northanger Library Project,, 2009).
  6 C. Baldick (ed.), Gothic Tales (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992), p. xiii.
  7 T. Percy, (1765) Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, Fourth Edition (London: Allen &
Unwin, 1927), pp. 15, 2. See M. Butler, ‘Antiquarianism (Popular)’, in I. McCalman
(ed.), An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture 1776–1832 (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 329–38.
  8 Ken Gelder, Reading the Vampire (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 24–41; Markman
Ellis, The History of Gothic Fiction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000),
  9 David Punter and Glennis Byron, The Gothic (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).
10 T. Hale, ‘French and German Gothic: The Beginnings’, in Hogle (ed.), The Cambridge
Companion to Gothic Fiction, pp. 63–84, at p. 68. Elsewhere – vid. the Introduction to
his edition of Tales of the Dead (Chislehurst, Kent: The Gargoyle’s Head Press, 1992)
– Hale acknowledges folk sources but does not explore the link.
11 D. Cavallaro, The Gothic Vision: Three Centuries of Horror, Terror and Fear (London:
Continuum, 2002), 150–9. In all fairness, Cavallaro does acknowledge folklore but
only in terms of contents (and social and psychological, as opposed to fictional ones at
12 S. Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk Literature, 6 vols (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1955–6).
13 W. Bascom, ‘The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives’, in A. Dundes (ed.), Sacred
Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1984), pp. 5–29.
14 Bascom, ‘The Forms of Folklore’, p. 8.
15 On the mythic value of Gothic see C. Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth,
Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp.
16 E. Moers, Literary Women: The Great Writers (New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday,
­16 Gothic studies 15/2

17 B. W. Aldiss, Billion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (London: Corgi Books,
1975); Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow.
18 F. Moretti, Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms (London:
Verso, 1983), 83–108; N. Crook, ‘Mary Shelley, Author of Frankenstein’, in D. Punter
(ed.) A Companion to the Gothic, pp. 58–69, at p. 58.
19 G. Ponnau, ‘Frankenstein: un texte suturé?’, in Gilles Menegaldo (ed.), Autour de
Frankenstein. Lectures critiques (Poitiers: Cahiers FORELL, 1999), 15–27, p. 26.
20 For a survey of critical approaches and difficulties see F. Botting, ‘Problematising
Frankenstein’, in Making Monstrous: Frankenstein, Criticism, Theory (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1991).
21 F. Botting (ed.), Frankenstein: Contemporary Critical Essays (London: Macmillan,
22 See M. Praz, ‘Introductory Essay’ to P. Fairclough (ed.), Three Gothic Novels (London:
Penguin, 1968), pp 257–497, pp. 7–36; R. Florescu, ‘The Artificial Man’, in In Search of
Frankenstein (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975), pp. 213–34.
23 M. Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, in Fairclough (ed.), Three Gothic
Novels, pp. 298–99. All subsequent references will be to this volume, which reprints
Shelley’s 1831 revised edition. For the 1818 edition I consulted D. L. Macdonald
and K. Scherf (eds), Frankenstein: The Original 1818 Text (Peterborough, Ontario:
Broadview Press, 1999).
24 This is one standard view; see, e.g., F. S. Frank, ‘The Gothic Romance, 1762–1820’,
in M. B. Tymn (ed.), Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide
(New York: R. R. Bowker Company, 1981), pp. 3–175, at p. 150. Some critics
acknowledge a link between Frankenstein and Faust but warn this is an oblique
relation; see Punter, The Literature of Terror, p. 121. Others question the appropri-
ateness of viewing Frankenstein as a Faust-figure; see Botting (ed.), ‘Introduction’,
to Frankenstein: Contemporary Critical Essays, pp. 1–20, at p. 3; J. E. Hogle,
‘Otherness in Frankenstein: The Confinement/Autonomy of Fabrication’, in Botting
(ed.), Frankenstein: Contemporary Critical Essays, pp. 206–34, at p. 213; Baldick, In
Frankenstein’s Shadow, pp. 41–2.
25 J. G. von Hahn, Sagwissenschaftliche Studien (Jena: Friedrich Manke, 1876); F. R.
Somerset, Lord Raglan, (1936) The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth, and Drama
(Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1975).
26 O. Rank, (1909) The Myth of the Birth of the Hero (trans. F. Robbins and S. E. Jelliffe) in
Robert A. Segal (ed.), In Quest of the Hero (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press,
1990), pp. 1–86; A. Dundes, The Hero Pattern and the Life of Jesus, in Segal (ed.), In
Quest of the Hero, pp. 179–223.
27 What follows is a synoptic adaptation of the model in J. Campbell, The Hero with
a Thousand Faces (London: Fontana Press, 1993), pp. 49–228, and especially pp.
28 The ‘citadel of nature’ image goes back to at least Francis Bacon, but exploring its true
origins and complexities would require much more space than I can devote to it here.
29 F. S. Frank, ‘The Gothic Romance, 1762–1820’, p. 12.
30 A. van Gennep, (1909) Les rites de passage: Étude systématique des rites (Paris: Picard,
31 V. Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (New York: Aldine de
Gruyter, 1969).
Gothic Fiction and Folk-Narrative Structure ­17

32 M. Poovey, ‘My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism’,
PMLA, 95 (1980), 332–47, at p. 342.
33 Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 92.
34 See, e.g., P. MacCana, ‘Aspects of the Theme of King and Goddess in Irish Literature’,
Études Celtiques, 7 (1955–6), 76–114; 8 (1958–9), 59–65; M. Aguirre, ‘The Riddle of
Sovereignty’, The Modern Language Review, 88/2 (1993), 273–82; H. E. Davidson,
Roles of the Northern Goddess (London: Routledge, 1998); E. Benard and B. Moon
(eds), Goddesses Who Rule (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
35 To the extent that her name is at times associated with intoxication. See R. Thurneysen,
‘Zur Göttin Medb’, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 19 (1931–3), 352–53.
36 I follow the standard typology in A. Aarne and S. Thompson, The Types of the Folktale:
A Classification and Bibliography (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1961).
37 On this reading see A. K. Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters
(London: Routledge, 1988), p. 111.
38 M. Homans, ‘Bearing Demons: Frankenstein’s Circumvention of the Maternal’, in
Botting (ed.), Frankenstein: Contemporary Critical Essays, pp. 140–65, at p. 141.
39 Homans, ‘Bearing Demons’, p. 142.
40 Mellor, Mary Shelley, p. 120.
41 S. M. Gilbert & S. Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the
Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale Univeristy Press, 1979),
p. 234.
42 D. Punter, ‘Legends of the Animated Body: The Case of the Monster’, in Menegaldo
(ed.), Autour de Frankenstein, pp. 89–100, at p. 91. See also D. Heiland, Gothic and
Gender: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 100–5.
43 J.-M. Racault, ‘Le motif de “l’enfant de la nature” dans la littérature du XVIIIe siècle ou
la recréation expérimentale de l’origine’, in C. Grell and C. Michel (eds), Primitivisme
et mythe des origines dans la France des Lumières 1680–1820 (Paris: Presses universi-
taires de la Sorbonne, 1989), pp. 101–117.
44 See R. García Iglesias, ‘“Counterfeit Hero”: The Gothic Subversion of Fairytale
Structure in Lewis’ The Monk’, in The TRELLIS Papers, 5 (2009).
45 Raglan, The Hero, p. 174.
46 A. Olrik, (1921) Principles for Oral Narrative Research (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1992), p. 45.
47 Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, p. 42.
48 R. B. Peake, Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein (1823), in J. N. Cox (ed.), Seven
Gothic Dramas, 1789–1825 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1992), pp. 385–425, at
p. 389.
49 S. Thompson, The Folktale (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1946), p. 269.
50 E. Napier, The Failure of Gothic: Problems of Disjunction in an Eighteenth-Century
Literary Form (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987). See also A. Williams, Art of Darkness:
A Poetics of Gothic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 1–24.
51 C. Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologie Structurale (Paris: Plon, 1958), Chapter 11. See my
‘Narrative Structure, Liminality, Self-Similarity: The Case of Gothic Fiction’, in
C. Bloom (ed.), Gothic Horror: A Guide for Students and Readers, Second Edition
(Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007), 226–47.
52 As proposed in Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow.
­18 Gothic studies 15/2

Notes on Contributor
Manuel Aguirre is Senior Lecturer at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.
He holds a PhD from the University of Antwerp, Belgium. His publications include The
Thresholds of the Tale: Liminality and the Structure of Fairytales (The Gateway Press, 2007),
The Closed Space: Horror Literature and Western Symbolism (Manchester UP, 1990) and
(with Roberta Quance and Philip Sutton) Margins and Thresholds: An Enquiry into the
Concept of Liminality in Text Studies (The Gateway Press, 2000); his ‘A Grammar of Gothic’
is due to appear in Romantic Textualities. He coordinates the Madrid Gothic Seminar and
heads the Northanger Library Project for the recovery of forgotten eighteenth-century
Gothic and related texts.

Address for Correspondence

Manuel Aguirre, Department of English Studies, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid,
Faculty of Humanities, Ciudad Universitaria de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.
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