Mathilda Criticism - Essay

Mary Shelley

Terence Harpold (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Did you get Mathilda from Papa?’: Seduction, Fantasy and the Circulation of Mary Shelley's Mathilda,” in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 28, No. 1, Spring 1989, pp. 49-67.

[In the following essay, Harpold draws parallels between the events in Mary Shelley's life and the action of Mathilda, noting that the book mirrors major events in the author's life.]

In a dream, I saw myself descending toward my father, intending to join him in the library. But along the way, the little skeleton always snatched me from behind with its outstretched hand. And I continued to live with my nightmares, and would never dare, when night had...

(The entire section is 8936 words.)

Tilottama Rajan (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mary Shelley's Mathilda: Melancholy and the Political Economy of Romanticism,” in Studies in the Novel, Vol. 26, No. 2, Summer 1994, pp. 43-68.

[In the following essay, Rajan describes Mathilda as a narrative of trauma that lends itself more easily to a psychoanalytic interpretation rather than a formalist reading.]

Although Mary Shelley was better known in her lifetime than her husband, her writings other than Frankenstein have been largely forgotten until recently. It is, moreover, a curious fact that the reassessment of her place in the canon (and of the canon in relation to that “place”) is being mobilized by the reissuing of...

(The entire section is 12798 words.)

William D. Brewer (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mary Shelley on the Therapeutic Value of Language,” in Papers on Language and Literature, Vol. 30, No. 4, Fall 1994, pp. 387-407.

[In the following essay, Brewer proposes that Shelley's use of oral and written language as a therapeutic tool is a dominant theme in many of her works, including Mathilda.]

The therapeutic value of oral and written self-expression is a recurrent theme in Mary Shelley's works, particularly in those works, such as Mathilda and Valperga: or, the Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca, in which the heroines have been subjected to psychological trauma. For example, the eponymous heroine of Mathilda...

(The entire section is 6988 words.)

Kerry McKeever (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Naming the Daughter's Suffering: Melancholia in Mary Shelley's Mathilda,” in Essays in Literature, Vol. 23, No. 2, Fall, 1996, pp. 190-205.

[In the following essay, McKeever contends that Mathilda, in addition to being an intensely personal response to tragedy in Shelley's life, also presents a condemnation of fathers who fail to fulfill their role.]

Mary Shelley's Mathilda recounts the story of a young woman who, in a letter written prior to her death, divulges her life story to her friend Woodville. In this letter, Mathilda relates her parents' history, accentuating their profound love for each other as well as the father's...

(The entire section is 8172 words.)

Margaret Davenport Garrett (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Writing and Re-writing Incest in Mary Shelley's Mathilda,” in Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. XLV, 1996, pp. 44-60.

[In the following essay, Garrett traces the development of Mathilda's text, proposing that Shelley uses this work to critique women's education and experience.]


Mary Shelley's second work of fiction, written in 1819 but not published until 1959, was a “tale” she eventually titled Mathilda. This novella has received relatively little critical attention, and, for the most part, analyses have been directed to the autobiographical or psychological significance of the work. Elizabeth Nitchie, editor...

(The entire section is 6259 words.)

Rosaria Champagne (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Law of the (Nameless) Father: Mary Shelley's Mathilda and the Incest Taboo,” in The Politics of Survivorship: Incest, Women's Literature, and Feminist Theory, New York University Press, 1996, pp. 53-89.

[In the following essay, Champagne discusses Mathilda as an example of incest narratives that were consistently suppressed because of their de-centered vision of paternity.]

Society expressly forbids that which society brings about.

—Lévi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship

British romanticism, a literary movement spanning the years from 1790 to...

(The entire section is 13312 words.)

Audra Dibert Himes (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Knew shame, and knew desire’: Ambivalence as Structure in Mary Shelley's Mathilda,” in Iconoclastic Departures: Mary Shelley after Frankenstein, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997, pp. 115-29.

[In the following essay, Himes offers a comparison of the sources Shelley used to compose Mathilda.]

“Such is my name, and such my tale,
          Confessor—to thy secret ear,
          I breathe the sorrows I bewail,
And thank thee for the generous tear
This glazing eye could never shed.”

—Lord Byron, “The Giaour” (1813)

Mathilda is an arresting, riveting work, strange in its representation of...

(The entire section is 6222 words.)