In a programme first broadcast in May 2019, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Shelley’s (1797-1851) Gothic story of a Swiss natural philosopher, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature he makes from parts of cadavers and which he then abandons, horrified by his appearance, and never names. Rejected by all humans who see him, the monster takes his revenge on Frankenstein, killing those dear to him. Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was 18, prompted by a competition she had with Byron and her husband Percy Shelley to tell a ghost story while they were rained in in the summer of 1816 at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.

The image of Mary Shelley, above, was first exhibited in 1840.

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  • Karen O'Brien 16 episodes
    Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford
  • Michael Rossington No other episodes
    Professor of Romantic Literature at Newcastle University
  • Jane Thomas 4 episodes
    Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of Hull

Reading list

  • In Frankenstein's Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing
    Chris Baldick (Clarendon Press, 1990) Google Books →
  • Women's Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley
    E. J. Clery (Liverpool University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Making of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
    Daisy Hay (Bodleian Library, 2019) Google Books →
  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
    Richard Holmes (HarperPress, 2009) Google Books →
  • Bearing the Word; Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-century Women's Writing
    Margaret Homans (University of Chicago Press ) Google Books →
  • One Culture: Essays in Science and Literature
    George Levine __ (ed.) (University of Wisconsin Press )
  • Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters
    Anne K. Mellor (Routledge, 1990) Google Books →
  • Gothic Writing 1750-1820: A Genealogy
    Robert Miles (Manchester University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: A Sourcebook
    Timothy Morton (Routledge, 2002)
  • The Oxford History of the Novel in English, Volume 2, English and British Fiction, 1750-1820
    Karen O'Brien and Peter Garside (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2015)
  • In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein
    Fiona Sampson (Profile, 2018) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley
    Esther Schor (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • Frankenstein
    Mary Shelley (ed. J. Paul Hunter) (Norton, 1996) Google Books →
  • Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
    Mary Shelley (ed. Marilyn Butler) (Oxford University Press, 1998) Google Books →
  • The Original Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus: The Original Two-Volume Novel of 1816-1817 from the Bodleian Library Manuscripts
    Mary Shelley (ed. Charles E. Robinson) (Vintage, 2009) Google Books →
  • Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
    Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (ed. Susan Wolfson) (Longman, 2003) Google Books →
  • Mary Shelley
    Miranda Seymour (Faber and Faber, 2011) Google Books →
  • Gothic Literature
    Andrew Smith (Edinburgh University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein
    Andrew Smith (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family
    William St Clair (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991) Google Books →
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror
    Robert Louis Stevenson (Penguin, 2003) Google Books →
  • Frankenstein's Footsteps : Science, Genetics and Popular Culture
    John Turney (Yale University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Oscar Wilde (Wordsworth, 1992) Google Books →
  • Mary Shelley: Gothic Authors: Critical Revisions
    Angela Wright (University of Wales Press, 2018) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: m00051n6

Episode page:

Auto-category: 800 (Literature)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in 1816, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron had a competition to write a ghost to pass the time on a cold, dark, wet holiday on the shores of Lake Geneva.