Paul O’Flinn ‘Production and Reproduction: the case of Frankenstein’

An extract of Paul O’Flinn’s ‘Production and Reproduction: the case of Frankenstein’ is featured in The Horror Reader, edited by Ken Gelder.

Having only recently read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the first time I’ve been interested in how this monstrous character has morphed from being a damaged, repulsive, complex revenge-killer into a green, not responsible for his actions, somewhat lovable mute throughout popular culture; even so much as we now collectively associate the monster as “Frankenstein” when that name really belongs to the Doctor. This metamorphosis occurs through a shifting of mediums (from novel to film) and through a change in contemporary social climates; Frankenstein becomes a site of re-production and a mimetic vessel for each new time period. To me, this reflects the continuous and self-generative/reflexive nature of the horror genre itself all manifested in one big monster metaphor.

Notes are after the jump…

  • “But a shift in medium means the literal rewriting of a text  as novel becomes script becomes film.” (p. 115)
  • “…so that shifts in the work’s presentation become a plain mirror of himan evolution: ‘the monster…is no longer separate, he’s quite simply ourselves'” (p. 115)
  • Three different kinds of shifts considered when looking at Mary Shelley’s book and the represented films (Frankenstein, 1931 with Boris Karloff by Universal and The Curse of Frankenstein with Christopher Lee by Hammer) concern: medium, audience, and content. For instance, Walton’s letters are necessarily omitted from the film versions.
  • Reason why shifts/changes need to happen: “…those images need to be repeatedly broken up and reconstituted if they are to continue to touch people…”(p. 121)
  • Author: “I’d prefer to look within the film and see it as a practice, as an intervention in its world rather than just a picture of it or a retreat from it, a practice whose extent is marked out by the reconstruction of the text that I have indicated” (p. 123)
  • Mary Shelley introduction excerpt: “invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded; it can give form to dark, shapeless substances but cannot bring into being the substance itself.” (p. 126)