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Gothic Literature in Special Collections

An overview of Gothic Literature held in Special Collections at Hornbake Library

Brief Biography

Mary Shelley (August 30, 1797 – February 1, 1851) is one of the most famous female 19th century authors, a label she received for her influential work, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Shelley was the daughter of the radical philosopher William Godwin and well-known defender of women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft. Her mother died days after her birth and Mary grew up with five siblings in Godwin’s unconventional but intellectually electric household. At the age of 16, Mary eloped to Italy with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Each encouraged the other’s writing, and they married in 1816. 

A cross between the Gothic and Science Fiction, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, highlights the overlay in genre that many Gothic novels feature. This is a complexity that often leads to the intersect of the Gothic genre with the Horror, Science Fiction, even Fantasy and Historical Fiction genres. Frankenstein's dark and frightening plot plays with common Gothic themes, such as morality, the grotesque, and the tension between life, death, and what might lie in between.



Mary Wollstonecraft

Special Collections also holds works of Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.

Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759 - September 10, 1797) was an English writer and passionate advocate of educational and social equality for women. She outlined her beliefs in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), considered a trailblazing work of feminism. Wollstonecraft’s argued that the educational system of her time deliberately trained women to be frivolous and incapable. She posited that an educational system that allowed girls the same advantages as boys would result in women who would be not only exceptional wives and mothers but also capable workers in many professions.