An already alienated animality: Frankenstein as a Gothic narrative of carnivorism.
Thus, the monster's vegetarianism becomes essential to the narrative. The monster, in the midst of asking Victor to create another being like himself, professes his vegetarianism: 'My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment' (170). The monster, completely alienated from human social relations, not only pleads with his cruel creator, Victor, to construct another being for him to share his life with but also rejects the meat-eating diet 'of man'. The fact that Victor Frankenstein's creation, the ostensibly frightening 'monster', refuses to 'destroy' nonhuman animals for sustenance calls into question the very destructive habits of a meat-eating society.
In this essay, I argue that both the monster's corporeality and his vegetarian diet threaten the carnivorist and speciesist social order which underscores human-animal relations. First, I begin by examining how Shelley's narrative presents an interrogation of 'human nature' and of the speciesist desire to posit human subjectivity over and against a notion of 'animality'. I do this by discussing, in particular, Victor's treatment of nonhuman animals in his practice of vivisection. Secondly, I demonstrate that the monster's corporeality is frightening because he is part nonhuman animal. However, I take this claim further by illustrating that the creature's monstrosity stems not merely from his animality but from an already alienated animality in the form of industrially slaughtered meat; he is partially composed of nonhuman animal remains, and is thus a reminder of the already alienated status of the slaughtered animals which carnivorism seeks to efface. Thus, Frankenstein's monster, as a commodity of industrial animal food production that was not consumed but resurrected only to reject the human practice of meat-eating, endangers the speciesist and carnivorist social order.
Many critics tend to miss, or ignore, the importance of the nonhuman animal subject in Shelley's narrative. Nancy Armstrong, for example, in her discussion of how novels contribute to nation building, claims that '[h]uman beings are what count in Frankenstein'. (4) Armstrong's claim rests upon her sound reading of the monster as a 'cosmopolite with no particular attachment to geographic location'. (5) What is questionable, however, about Armstrong's reading is its anthropocentric assumption that '[h]uman beings are what count in Frankenstein, given the fact that the monster consists of human parts as well as nonhuman animal parts. When Armstrong asks, 'To what does Frankenstein give life as he produces a human being', the nonhuman animal bodies that comprise the monster's being--and the full complexity of the monster's actual composition--are completely effaced. (6) Armstrong sees the monster not as a composite of the human and the nonhuman animal but as 'a composite of individual human beings', which, in her reading, 'exceeds the limits of individualism'. (7) She, thus, assumes a subjectivity on the part of the monster that is inherently human. (8) This assumption--and its elision of nonhuman subjectivity--exemplifies what Cary Wolfe has called 'a fundamental repression' within the discourse of 'cultural studies', which can be defined as the repression of 'the question of nonhuman subjectivity, taking it for granted that the subject is always already human'. (9) The text of Frankenstein undermines such a repressive procedure. The monster, as the central figure in the narrative, problematises the notion of human subjectivity by virtue of his hybrid position that is neither wholly human nor wholly animal. Moreover, Victor's early acts of vivisection as part of his process of creating life, and the monster's vegetarian diet, raise questions about how humans treat nonhuman animals, and the social relations that exist between them. Clearly, humans are not all that count in Frankenstein.
The very creation of the monster illustrates how notions of the human are called into question by human treatment of nonhuman animals: 'The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation' (82). Victor's 'human nature' is repulsed by the uses to which he puts both the human and nonhuman animal remains. His 'human nature' is perhaps not in accord with what he finds in the slaughterhouse. (10) Victor's invocation of his 'human nature' suggests that he is troubled by his occupations, but it also establishes his belief in a species hierarchy; for Victor consistently deploys the notion of 'human nature' in order to situate himself above the nonhuman. This notion of 'human nature' attests to his position within the narrative as the Enlightenment humanist scientist, who in Adorno and Horkheimer's words 'would establish man as the master of nature'. (11) Victor's experiments toward 'the creation of a human being' stem from the ambition to master nature (81). Such ambition is illustrated in his regard for Professor Waldman's claim that the 'modern masters' of science 'penetrate into the recesses of nature' and 'have acquired new and almost unlimited powers' (76). However, Victor's notion of 'human nature' is representative of Enlightenment humanism not only in its anthropocentric ideology of mastering nature but also in its anthropocentric notions of compassion. As Hilda Kean points out in her discussion of the anti-Vivisection movement that would occur in the later part of the nineteenth-century, 'a mark of man's humanity was his potential for kindness towards animals. To act otherwise was to transgress the very idea of what it was to be human'. (12) Such an idea of humanity, while positive in its cross-species humanitarianism, is still anthropocentric in its vision: humans are truly human when being kind toward animals. The animal, and the treatment of animals, becomes a mere symbol or reflection of humanity. Victor's relation to the nonhuman, including his monster, is emblematic of the problems that arise out of humanism's project to master nature and simultaneously treat the nonhuman beneficently as a mark of humanity.
When Victor's 'human nature' is repulsed by his visits to the dissecting-rooms and slaughterhouses, he is not so much troubled by the sites of nonhuman animal exploitation but by his own sordid act of raiding such places for body parts, which troubles his own sense of his proper role as a bourgeois human subject. Victor, arguably, suffers momentary pangs of guilt regarding his treatment of nonhuman animals and his monster. Any guilt he might feel is at best connected with a notion that it is the correct 'human' thing to do to show compassion toward the lower animals. However, any feelings of compassion Victor might feel are negated by his need to place himself above and against the nonhuman. In this he is most representative of the Enlightenment scientist. As Adorno and Horkheimer point out in their critique of the Enlightenment, 'In thought, human beings distance themselves from nature in order to arrange it in such a way that it can be mastered'. (13) Victor's project is always, in the final analysis, one of mastery.
Thus, it is Victor's 'human nature' which allows him to feel revolted by, and simultaneously justified for, his acts. He claims, 'The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body [...] but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart' (85). Victor's claim to his 'human nature' in relation to his change of feeling for his creation is crucial in light of his earlier experiments upon living nonhuman animals: 'I pursued nature in her hiding places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?' (82). Victor's 'secret toil', his previous acts of vivisection, are, then, justified, as Victor's interlocutor is meant to understand that such acts of cruelty were part of the original 'beauty of the dream'; the 'horrors of [his] secret toil' were necessary for a greater good.
Vivisection forms an integral part of Victor's process of creation, and his initial relation to his experimental being is symbolic of the vivisector's relation to the nonhuman animal. Adorno and Horkheimer, specifically allude to vivisection in their critique of the Enlightenment and Enlightenment science: 'the rabbit suffering the torment of the laboratory is seen not as a representative, but, mistakenly, as a mere exemplar'. (14) Victor, the epitome of the Enlightenment scientist, must deem his creation monstrous, just as the vivisector must deem the nonhuman animal to be an inferior being in order to continue conducting her or his experiments. As Peter Singer has pointed out, this relation between the vivisector and the laboratory animal does not illustrate 'sadism on the part of the individual experimenters but the institutionalised mentality of speciesism that makes it possible'. (15) Unlike his earlier acts of vivisection, the creation of his monster is essentially an act of vivisection in reverse: Victor experiments on his being by putting pieces of him together in order to bring him to life instead of cutting him apart.
The monster's alienation from human social relations begins at the moment of his birth. As he is brought to life, Victor becomes revolted, and then terrified, by his own creation: 'Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room', inexplicably repulsed by the monster's 'dull yellow eye' and 'yellow skin' (85). The text hints at the possibility of the monster's animality being a reason for Victor's repulsion; for the 'dull yellow eye' that reflects back upon Victor suggests the eye of a nonhuman animal. (16) Such a reading would then posit the eye of a nonhuman animal meeting, and returning, Victor's gaze: 'his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me' (86). Thus, on one level, Victor appears disgusted by the animality of his creation, and by the confrontation with that animality especially in the form of its gaze. Moreover, it is important to point out that much later in the narrative Walton refers to Victor's 'fine and lovely eyes', which further establishes the contrast between the human eyes--and thus human nature--of Victor with the 'dull yellow eye'--and thus animality and/or inhumanity--of the monster (231).
The moment Victor catches sight of the 'dull yellow eye' is central; it immediately draws attention to the question of whether or not the nonhuman animal can return the human gaze. This is a point which Derrida takes up at great length when he speaks of meeting the gaze of his cat in The Animal That Therefore I Am. One of Derrida's more salient conclusions resides in his critique of--what I will directly call--speciesist ideology: 'They have taken no account of the fact that what they call "animal" could look at them, and address them, from a wholly other origin.' (17) Victor's terror at the sight of his monster exemplifies an anthropocentric anxiety at being looked at or addressed by the nonhuman. Victor knows that 'dull yellow eye' is looking at him and it frightens him, which is why it is so important that he attempts to render the eyes of his monster as somehow unreal by stating 'if eyes they may be called'. Victor asserts his desire to retain his 'human nature' over and against the animality that is observing him. Most importantly, as Victor obtained his nonhuman animal parts from slaughterhouses, his monster gives an eye, and thus a face, to the meat or the meat by-products which were meant to be consumed. Victor is confronted with a being that is, in part, meat resurrected.
And yet, Victor is also reacting to the humanity in his creation as well. If the eye of the monster is the former eye of a nonhuman animal, it is also embedded in a face, and a body, that is partially human. Victor's fear and repulsion is a reaction to the animal in the human and the human in the animal. In fact, the only way Victor can distance himself from the monster's humanity is to identify him as monstrous. Victor had, as a vivisector, justified his acts of vivisection, which 'tortured the living animal' in an appeal to his 'human nature' which saw the 'beauty of the dream' in creating life from death. He now must shift his own sense of horror--the 'horrors of [his] secret toil'--onto his creation who must embody Victor's acts of cruelty. The monster, thus, becomes a horrific being, terrible to behold.
Victor experiences a nightmarish vision after promising to create a female companion for his monster which illustrates the centrality of the human treatment of the nonhuman animal within the narrative of Frankenstein. As Victor begins contemplating the creation of another being, he is oppressed by feelings of anxiety: 'Can you wonder, that sometimes a kind of insanity possessed me, or that I saw continually about me a multitude of filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture, that often extorted screams and bitter groans?' (173-4). Victor's nightmarish vision evokes the fear of becoming a subject of vivisection; for now Victor is the one being tortured like the 'living animals' he 'tortured [...] to animate the lifeless clay'. Philip Armstrong rightly refers to Victor's vision as an 'inverted vivisection fantasy'. (18) The momentary insanity that possesses Victor is in reality a manifestation of his own fear and guilt. However, it is also, once again, an expression of his need to posit his own human nature or humanity over and against animality; for it is a 'multitude of filthy animals' that torture him in his vision. Before agreeing to create a female companion for his monster, Victor admits to feeling compassion for his monster. But his feelings quickly turn to disgust when he looks at him: 'when I saw the filthy mass that moved and talked my heart sickened' (171). The 'lifeless clay' that he brought to life via the torture of living animals becomes disgusting to Victor precisely because of the monster's animality. Victor only sees in his monster a 'filthy mass.' Now, Victor imagines a 'multitude of filthy animals', perhaps coming to inflict their revenge.
It is salient that this vision comes to Victor at this juncture: the monster has already taken his revenge upon Victor by killing his younger brother William and framing the innocent family friend Justine. His promise to his monster to create another being invokes the previous 'secret toil' that made his project necessary, and now Victor fears the revenge of the 'living animals' he once tortured. Yet, for Victor the animals are 'filthy animals', as disgusting and inferior as the 'filthy mass' of his creation. Once again, he places himself above the nonhuman. It is thus crucial that when Victor destroys the female being he has begun to create he states, 'I [...] tore to pieces the thing'; for despite Victor's fears--and his own profession that 'she ... was to become a thinking and reasoning animal'--this being, like his monster, is only a mere thing (191, 190). Moreover, it is a 'thing' which can be torn to 'pieces', which again suggests the act of vivisection. Victor may contentedly create and destroy in the name of his own humanity or human nature, but when the monster, in a fit of rage at his own creator, destroys William he is labeled as an 'animal' (104). Victor states, 'Nothing in human shape could have destroyed that fair child' and then, as he contemplates tracking down the monster, he adds, 'the strange nature of the animal would elude all pursuit' (103-4). It is now clear: the monster is an 'animal'. Despite his earlier claim to have begun 'the creation a human being', Victor sees his creation as an animal.
Frankenstein's monster by virtue of his very make-up destabilises the anthropocentric human-animal binary, which Victor asserts in claiming that '[n]othing in human shape' could have murdered William. Matthew Calarco claims that 'the human-animal distinction can no longer and ought no longer to be maintained'. (19) He writes, '[a]re not "human beings" sliding constantly along a series of differences, including those that are thought to separate human from animal'. (20) Calarco's notion of humans 'sliding constantly along a series of differences' is indebted, in part, to Derrida's critique of a 'common "animality"'. (21) If there is no essential animal nature common to all nonhuman animals but complex and varied animalities particular to various species, Calarco asks, '[d]o not "human beings" belong to this multiplicity of beings and relations?' (22) In other words, there can be no human nature or subjectivity that stands above or apart from animality precisely because animality is much more complex than humans have allowed in the first place; and, furthermore, human beings are part of this complex 'multiplicity'. The monster symbolises such a state of 'differences' because, as I have already sought to establish, it is not possible to view Frankenstein's creation as an entirely human subject. Shelley's narrative illustrates an erasure of the humananimal binary, and even Victor's descriptions of his creation 'slid[e] [...] along a series of differences', as he appears to vacillate in his estimation of the monster's ontological status. After William's death the monster becomes an 'animal' to Victor, and this designation of his creature as animal, of course, establishes the superiority of the human in the human-animal binary. However, when the monster asks for a female companion, Victor answers, 'You propose [...] to fly from the habitations of man, to dwell in those wilds where the beasts of the field will be your only companions. How can you, who long for the love and sympathy of man, persevere in this exile?' (171). It is not clear in this passage whether Victor Frankenstein perceives his creation to be a human or an animal. He notes that for the monster to live among 'the beasts of the field' will be a life of exile, not a natural habitation. But does his monster's desire for 'the love and sympathy of man' necessarily make him human in Victor's eyes? Perhaps in this one moment Victor sees his monster as he really is--as a being that contests the very notion of a distinction between the human and the animal.
On one level, the monster forces one to confront one's own animality. (23) However, I would like to take this further by suggesting that the monster forces one to confront how the occlusion of this vision of one's animality allows, what Bill Martin calls, the 'system of carnivorism' to continue. (24) The ideological notion that the human is separate from the animal sphere, that, in fact, the human is somehow outside the realm of animal creation, allows humans to feel distanced from, and thus superior to, nonhuman animal beings. Carnivorism, as a system, depends upon the speciesist recognition of the intellectual and emotional superiority of humans, and an ideology that rests upon the notion that it is natural to consume nonhuman animal flesh.
The interrogation of the human subject's exclusive claim to experience suffering, emotional distress, and possess consciousness has disputed the system of carnivorism for centuries. Stephanie Rowe has pointed out how Shelley's novel resembles, and is perhaps indebted to, the Romantic era vegetarian writer John Oswald's vegetarian treatise The Cry of Nature; or an Appeal to Mercy and Justice on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals published in 1791. (25) Oswald's argument, according to Rowe, consists of the belief that if humanity has forsaken its concern for nonhuman animals it is due to 'the rhetoric of a carnivorous culture, not nature'. (26) Rowe articulates the aim of Oswald's text as 'an expansion of the moral community to recognise the entitlement of animals to partake in the full share of happiness allotted to them for their own sake'. (27) Indeed, Oswald proclaims in The Cry of Nature 'may we learn to recognise and to respect in other animals the feelings which vibrate in ourselves'. (28) However, Oswald's point, and similar arguments, can be reversed: one can find not merely the 'human' in the animal but the 'animal' in the human. (29) I would argue that Frankenstein, as a narrative, posits such a notion by virtue of the monster's ontological status as part animal. Thus, while Shelley may have been influenced by Oswald's vegetarian treatise, as Rowe so aptly points out, the text of Frankenstein takes such a position further by blurring the boundaries between the human and the nonhuman. It must be remembered that the monster does not reject meat-eating as a human subject but as a hybrid being that is part animal, part human. Therefore, the monster's vegetarian diet is not only a rejection of the speciesist treatment of nonhuman animals but a challenge to the human-animal binary that underscores human-animal relations to begin with. His vegetarianism is not merely a compassionate plea for just treatment of nonhuman animal subjects, like Oswald's, but a destabilisation of what constitutes the human.
In rejecting the food 'of man', the monster rejects the system of carnivorism, and this refusal to eat animal flesh contributes to his alienation. Martin argues that, like capitalism, carnivorism constructs subjectivity: 'carnivorism not only runs very deep into subjectivity formation, it runs so deep that it comes close to assuming the character of an absolute presupposition'. (30) By stating '[m]y food is not that of man', the monster explicitly underscores his alienation from human social relations: he does not participate in what constitutes the normative model of the human subject--the eating of nonhuman animals. The monster would appear to recognise that his vegetarianism precludes him from attaining human subjectivity when he paradoxically asserts to Victor, 'The picture I present to you is peaceful and human' (170). Calarco, like Martin, recognises how carnivorism constructs subjectivity. Speaking of Derrida's theoretical articulation of 'carnophallogocentrism', Calarco states that it highlights that 'being a carnivore is at the very heart of becoming a full subject in [...] society'. (31) The monster's vegetarianism keeps him from 'becoming a full subject' in human society. However, for Victor's creature this is intentional. In fact, he professes his vegetarianism to Victor during the moment in which he tells him of his desire to flee human society with a female companion constructed like himself. He states, 'I will quit the neighbourhood of man' (171). The food 'of man' is equated with 'the neighbourhood of man', and both are to be rejected.
The monster's diet only further alienates him from human social relations, as he is already alienated due to his ontological status as part animal. It is the animality of Victor's creature in the first place which places him outside human social relations--relations which are based upon private property. As part nonhuman animal, he remains alienated from what he calls 'the strange system of human society' that is based upon 'the division of property' (145). Indeed, he sees his inability to possess property as a key aspect of his own alienation: 'I possessed no money [...] no kind of property [...] I was not even of the same nature as man [...] Was I then a monster' (145). Here the monster recognises that he is not 'of the same nature as man', but what is most important about this passage is that it points to the connection between the creature's lack of property and his monstrosity. Being without property, Frankenstein's creature is forced to speculate as to whether he is, indeed, a monster, and this points directly to his alienation as part nonhuman animal; for the monster not only does not possess property, but, like a nonhuman animal, he is unable to possess property, and exists outside human property relations. Moreover, the monster's corporeality symbolises how the nonhuman animal becomes property in human social relations, as he is the creation of parts of nonhuman animals that were property in the hands of slaughterhouse owners.
It is this fact that must be kept in mind in relation to the monster's vegetarianism. It is not the monster's animality that necessarily informs his decision to be vegetarian but his already alienated animality in the form of industrially slaughtered meat. In other words, the monster does not merely reject the food 'of man' because he is part nonhuman animal but rather because he is composed of pieces of the food 'of man'. Moreover, he is not merely alienated from human social relations because he is part animal; the monster is the living embodiment of an animality that has already been alienated from, and exploited by, the human. Carnivorism alienates the nonhuman animal as property rendered into a commodity in the form of food. The nonhuman animal is no longer even seen as an animal but as a commodity in the logic of carnivorism. (32) This process by which the animal is reified for meat consumption illustrates how the speciesist conception of the human superiority over the nonhuman animal is only the first step in a larger process; for when the animal becomes meat it is no longer merely about the assertion of human superiority but the erasure of animal subjectivity or animality itself. (33) The monster's vegetarianism calls attention to this system which turns nonhuman animal subjects into objects. Most importantly, Frankenstein's monster rejects a diet based on exploitation because he himself is a product of such exploitation. (34)
Victor's creature is, in part, meat that was not consumed, and thus his monstrosity can be identified as the embodiment of resurrected meat. As stated at the outset, this can be seen in the monster's encounter with Victor's younger brother William. William's fear of being torn to pieces and eaten by the monster takes on added significance in relation to Victor's encounter with his creation. Like William, Victor is repulsed by the monster's appearance, but unlike William, Victor is aware that the monster is literally a being of death and the consumption of death. The ambiguous nature of the monster's deformity and monstrosity can thus be attributed to not only his animality but to the fact that he is resurrected meat. Victor who confesses to momentarily feeling sympathy toward his monster then claims 'but when I looked upon him, when I saw the filthy mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened, and my feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred' (171). Just as his 'human nature' was earlier repulsed by his 'occupation'--by his visits to the slaughterhouse for materials for his creation--so now are Victor's human 'feelings' disgusted by the 'filthy mass that move[s] and talk[s]'. Philip Armstrong notes that the monster's 'material hybridity', which is the result of Victor's slaughterhouse raids, offers 'some explanation of the peculiar horror generated by the Creature'. (35) Frankenstein's monster, Armstrong suggests, 'looks [...] like a decaying corpse'. (36) While Armstrong rightly points to the monster's hybridity and corpse-like appearance he nevertheless neglects the most crucial component of the monster's corporeality: the monster does not merely present the visual of a decaying corpse but rather a decaying corpse that was, in part, meant to be consumed by humans. When Armstrong posits that the monster 'display[s] [...] the processes of decay by which human life dissolves and transmutes into non-human life', it must be remembered that this 'non-human' life was previously killed for human food. (37) The monster is ugly and monstrous precisely because he is comprised of meat by-products, a frightening image that disrupts the normative understanding of where such animal flesh belongs--on the table.
It is thus crucial that Victor's 'feelings [are] altered to those of horror and hatred' directly after the monster criticises the human practice of meat-eating, what the monster calls the food 'of man'. For now, the being which he foraged through slaughterhouses to create stands before him condemning the diet that demands the slaughterhouse. The refusal of Victor's creature to partake of animal flesh becomes, perhaps, the central challenge to Victor's 'human nature'. Victor has alternately been repulsed by his acts (including vivisection and rummaging through the slaughterhouse) and sought to justify them; he has vacillated between compassion and disgust for his creature. In the end, Victor has always ultimately sought to establish his own 'human nature' over and against the animality of the animals he tortured and his own creation. Victor's desire to assert such superiority exemplifies the ideological logic of both speciesism and carnivorism. We have seen that carnivorism--and what Derrida calls 'carno-phallogocentrism'--constructs subjectivity. While the monster's vegetarianism keeps him from becoming integrated as a subject in human society, it threatens Victor's subjectivity because his subjectivity rests upon the ostensibly natural diet of carnivorism. Just as Victor had sought to identify his creature as monstrous at the moment of his birth (when Victor caught the monster's gaze) so now he must complete the picture in his mind of his creature's ultimate deformity and monstrosity--the 'filthy mass' of meat--because the monster has threatened his own subject position, and diet, based upon the human-animal distinction that asserts the superiority of the human over the animal. Thus, when his creature condemns meat-eating Victor must transfer the horrors of his own diet, along with the 'horrors of [his] 'secret toil' to his monster.
Frankenstein's monster is created, in part, from the profit-driven process that exploits and commodifies the nonhuman animal in the carnivorist system. But Frankenstein's monster is a 'monster' because he is meat that was not consumed and brought back to life. What was intended for the human table comes to life and defies the social order. His vegetarianism only serves to reinforce the horror which his corporeal being presents to human society. Both his body and his diet invoke the 'strange system of human society' with its property divisions that turn nonhuman animals into human property. His body symbolises the horrors of the slaughterhouse that are meant to be hidden, and his diet interrogates the need for animal flesh, and thus the necessity of the slaughterhouse: 'acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment'. The Gothic narrative of Frankenstein is not one of a supernatural nature; rather the Gothic narrative within the text is the one that confronts the seemingly natural system of carnivorism. As Carol Adams points out, '[u]nlike many Gothic tales in which a customary raid on the graveyard is obligatory, Victor Frankenstein, in constructing his Creature, makes forays to the slaughterhouse as well.' (38) It is not the fantastical or preternatural plot of the monster's being brought to life that forms the Gothic element of the novel; it is the monster's corporeality itself, which confronts the horrors of carnivorism.
Address for correspondence
Jackson Petsche, PhD Student, Syracuse University English Department, 401 Hall of Languages, Syracuse, NY 13244 USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) I use the term 'monster' throughout this essay intentionally and critically in order to call attention to the fact that the monstrosity of the creature is interconnected with the monstrousness of speciesist practices such as vivisection and industrial animal food production.
(2) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, The 1818 Version, 2nd ed., (eds) D. L. MacDonald and Kathleen Scherf (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 1999), p. 167. All subsequent references are taken from this edition. Page numbers will appear in parentheses in the body of the text.
(3) Stephanie Rowe, in her article, 'Listen to Me: Frankenstein as an Appeal to Mercy and Justice on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals', in Frank Palmeri, (ed.), Humans and Other Animals in Eighteenth Century British Culture (Burlington: Ashgate, 2007), also notes the fact that the monster is created from 'an assemblage of parts collated from multiple animal species', pointing out that '[t]he materials collected from the slaughterhouse are those of animals other than humans, most likely, cows, sheep, pigs, birds, or horses' (p. 137). It is important that Rowe specifies the various animals that could possibly have contributed to the creation of the monster, as it makes the connection between the once living creatures and the products, or parts, of the slaughterhouse that much clearer.
(4) Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism 1719-1900 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), p. 69.
(5) Armstrong, How Novels Think, p. 69.
(6) Armstrong, How Novels Think, p. 69.
(7) Armstrong, How Novels Think, p. 70.
(8) Many critics also tend to miss, or ignore, the fact that the monster is comprised of both human and nonhuman animal parts. For example, Gayatri Spivak, in her work, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), states that 'Frankenstein creates a putative human subject out of natural philosophy alone' (p. 136). Laura Brown, on the other hand, in Homeless Dogs and Melancholy Apes: Humans and Other Animals in the Modern Literary Imagination (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010), acknowledges that the monster is '[s]imulataneously human and nonhuman' (p. 63). However, Brown argues that 'the physical appearance of Frankenstein's monster is built from the basic constituents of several collated descriptions of the great ape' (p. 59). Brown's historical reading nevertheless elides the fact that the monster is created from both human and nonhuman animal parts, and, moreover, that the nonhuman parts are obtained from slaughterhouses.
(9) Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p. 1.
(10) Rowe notes in 'Listen to Me', that 'remnants' of nonhuman animals such as 'pigs, rabbits, birds, dogs, cats, or apes' could also have been taken from the 'dissecting room' (p. 137).
(11) Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, (eds), Gunzelin Schimd Noerr, trans. Edumd Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), p. 1.
(12) Hilda Kean, Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain Since 1800 (London: Reaktion, 1998), p. 108.
(13) Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. 31.
(14) Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. 7.
(15) Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Ecco, 1975), p. 42.
(16) Rowe also notes this possibility, suggesting that the yellowness of the eye is similar to that of cat (p. 138).
(17) Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, (ed.), Marie-Louise Mallet, trans. David Wills (New York, Fordham University Press, 2008), p. 13.
(18) Philip Armstrong, What Animals Mean in the Fiction of Modernity (London: Routledge, 2008), p. 69.
(19) Matthew Calarco, Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 3.
(20) Calarco, Zoographies, p. 142.
(21) Calarco, Zoographies, p. 141.
(22) Calarco, Zoographies, p. 142.
(23) The monster's composite corporeality would also seem to support a posthumanist reading of the novel, and Cary Wolfe's claim that 'the animal has always been especially, frightfully nearby' (p. 6). The monster as part human part nonhuman animal calls the very notion of human subjectivity - and a human subjectivity posited over and against the nonhuman - into question. However, as I am arguing in this essay, the monster is not merely part nonhuman animal but, in effect, part resurrected meat. Therefore, I would argue, that it goes beyond a posthumanist reading connected with the interrogation of humanism and the human subject. As I argue, the monster's corporeality confronts one with the industry and ideology of carnivorism.
(24) Bill Martin, Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation (Chicago: Open Court, 2008), p. 216.
(25) Rowe, 'Listen to Me', p. 141.
(26) Rowe, 'Listen to Me', p. 143.
(27) Rowe, 'Listen to Me', p. 141.
(28) John Oswald, The Cry of Nature; Or an Appeal to Mercy and Justice on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals (London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1791), p. 82. Eighteenth Century Collections Online: Available at http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.bathspa. ac.uk:2048/ ecco /retrieve.do ? sgHitCountType=None&scale=0.33&sort=Author&doc Level=FASCIMILE&prodId=ECCO&tabID=T001&resultListType=RESULT_LIST& searchType=BasicSearchForm&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D% 28TI%2CNone%2C17%29The+Cry+ of+ Nature % 3AAnd% 3ALQE% 3D %28BA %2CN one%2C124%292NEF+Or+0LRH+Or+2NEK+Or+0LRL+Or+2NEI+Or+0LRI+Or+2 NEJ+Or+0LRK+Or+2NEG+Or+0LRF+Or+2NEH+Or+0LRJ+Or+2NEM+Or+0LRN +Or+2NEL+Or+0LRM % 24&retrieveFormat=MULTIPAGE_DOCUMENT &inPS= true&userGroupName=bsuc&docId= CW3309567633¤tPosition = 1&workId= 0867500100&relevancePageBatch=CW109567632&contentSet=ECCOArticles&callis toContentSet=ECCOArticles&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&reformatPage=N&ret rieveFormat=MULTIPAGE_DOCUMENT&scale=0.33&pageIndex= 3&orientation= &showLOI=Yes&quickSearchTerm = &stwFuzzy=&doDirectDocNumSearch=false& searchId=R1, accessed on 26 March 2014.
(29) Again, Cary Wolfe's argument that 'the other-than-human resides at the very core of the human itself' is helpful here (p. 17).
(30) Martin, Ethical Marxism, p. 234.
(31) Calarco, Zoographies, p. 132.
(32) Carol Adams, in The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 2010), theorises this reification of the nonhuman animal subject in her concept of the 'absent referent': 'In butchering, animals become absent referents. Animals in name and body are made as animals for meat to exist' (p. 66). Thus, a pig that was butchered becomes 'pork', a cow 'beef, and all animals fall under the general term of 'meat.'
(33) Bill Martin's notion that 'carnivorism [...] is the "heart" of the present system of commodity production' (p. 251), is salient; for carnivorism illustrates an extreme example of reification.
(34) Timothy Morton, in Shelley and the Revolution in Taste (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), points out that the monster does learn to 'cook flesh', reminding us of the moment in which the monster 'supplements] his diet of nuts, roots and acorns' with 'cooked offals' (p. 47). The monster, however, comes to reject such food. Morton also rightly notes that '[h]is body is made from dismembered corpses: he shares something in common with the offal he eats, at any rate' (p.47). This very fact--the fact that he is made not only from 'dismembered corpses' but from the same nonhuman animal pieces as the offal he eats--is, what I am arguing, causes the monster's ultimate rejection of meat.
(35) Armstrong, What Animals Mean, p. 73.
(36) Armstrong, What Animals Mean, p. 73.
(37) Armstrong, What Animals Mean, p. 73.
(38) Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat, p. 157.
Notes on Contributor
Jackson Petsche is a PhD candidate in English at Syracuse University. His areas of interest include Victorian literature and culture, animal studies, and Marxist theory. His essay 'The Importance of Being Autonomous: Toward a Marxist Defense of Art for Art's Sake' won the Marxist Literary Group's 2010 Michael Sprinker Prize and was published in their journal Mediations. He is currently at work on his dissertation, which examines representations of animal slaughter, carnivorism, and vegetarianism in Victorian literary texts.
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|Date:||May 1, 2014|
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