Amazon changes "crappy" to "cr*ppy"
In her Salon column Camille Paglia writes about a book that sounds fairly interesting:
Finally, I read a fabulous book last week -- John Lauritsen's "The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein," which will be published in May by the gay-themed Pagan Press, based in Dorchester, Mass. Lauritsen, who is known for his work in gay history and for his heterodox views of the AIDS epidemic, sent me an advance copy, which arrived as I was on my way to midterm exams. Its thesis is that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and not his wife, the feminist idol, Mary Shelley, wrote "Frankenstein" and that the hidden theme of that book is male love.
Amazon excerpts this as a review, and changes "crappy" to "cr*ppy." It's OK to take down a feminist idol and suggest for the first time that a major work in the romantic canon has a gay theme and make fun of establishment scholars as long as you don't use potty words.
[...] Lauritsen's book is important not only for its audacious theme but for the devastating portrait it draws of the insularity and turgidity of the current academy. As an independent scholar, Lauritsen is beholden to no one. As a consequence, he can fight openly with myopic professors and, without fear of retribution, condemn them for their inability to read and reason.
This book, which is a hybrid of mystery story, polemic and paean to poetic beauty, shows just how boring literary criticism has become over the past 40 years. I haven't been this exhilarated by a book about literature since I devoured Leslie Fiedler's iconoclastic essays in college back in the 1960s. All that crappy poststructuralism that poured out of universities for so long pretended to challenge power but was itself just the time-serving piety of a status-conscious new establishment. Lauritsen's book shows what true sedition and transgression are all about.
Lauritsen assembles an overwhelming case that Mary Shelley, as a badly educated teenager, could not possibly have written the soaring prose of "Frankenstein" (which has her husband's intensity of tone and headlong cadences all over it) and that the so-called manuscript in her hand is simply one example of the clerical work she did for many writers as a copyist. I was stunned to learn about the destruction of records undertaken by Mary for years after Percy's death in 1822 in a boating accident in Italy. Crucial pages covering the weeks when "Frankenstein" was composed were ripped out of a journal. And Percy Shelley's identity as the author seems to have been known in British literary circles, as illustrated by a Knights Quarterly review published in 1824 that Lauritsen reprints in the appendix.
The stupidity and invested self-interest of prominent literary scholars are lavishly on display here in exchanges reproduced from a Romanticism listserv or in dueling letters to the editor, which Lauritsen forcefully contradicts in acerbic footnotes. This is a funny, wonderful, revelatory book that I hope will inspire ambitious graduate students and young faculty to strike blows for truth in our mired profession, paralyzed by convention and fear. (emphasis supplied)
Her review really irritated me.
Mary Shelley's father was William Godwin, the author of Political Justice written in 1793, her mother was Mary Wolstonecraft, who wrote the book A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. (unless of course Lauritsen & Paglia thinks that Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that one too)
The argument for Mary Shelley's lack of education is pretty cr*ppy.
(born April 27, 1759, London, Eng. — died Sept. 10, 1797, London) English writer. She taught school and worked as a governess and as a translator for a London publisher. Her early Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787) foreshadowed her mature work on the place of women in society, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), whose core is a plea for equality in the education of men and women. The Vindication is widely regarded as the founding document of modern feminism. In 1797 she married the philosopher William Godwin; she died days after the birth of their daughter, Mary (see Mary Shelley), that same year.
Duly noted--not sure what Lauritsen is saying about her credentials as an intellectual or lack thereof--but Frankenstein *is* a very mature poetic work and *does* arguably have a gay theme. Victor creates the monster, a sensitive, thoughtful outsider, but fails to be (or create) a suitable mate for him. The monster's threat, then, is to be with Victor on his wedding night--that is, wreck his "legitimizing" hetero marriage. I mean, c'mon!
It's an interesting proposition that can be easily refuted just with biographical details, but that's what's great about academia, you can propose and argue (and possibly lose the argument, though Paglia doesn't ever lose an argument and that's what bugs me). I am curious to read Lauritsen's book to see if he can support his argument with comparative readings from the rest of Mary Shelley's body of work (especially the first book she wrote when she was 11 years old) as well as stylistic comparisons with Percy Shelley's writing.
I am also interested in his reasons for believing that the big fat ego of Percy Shelley had no problem passing off "his" masterpiece as something written by his uneducated wife. Also Percy screwed everything that wasn't nailed down, I doubt he had any reason to hide from the big gay since, as an identity, it wasn't invented yet. (I think they were all a bunch of happy go lucky sodomites then)
I think I'll post on this book eventually, there's going to be some lively arguments over it, now that Paglia's has weighed in, (unfortunately with her usual self reference and the heroic battles that she fights ...over her usual self reference. That said, I always enjoy reading her.)