Corey McCall and Borna Radnik:
Frankenstein is often read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific and technological progress and hence as a book with conservative political implications. While this is no doubt an important feature of the novel, scholars have argued that it is also a book that wrestles with the implications of radical politics and the legacy of the French Revolution. Warren Montag, for example, argues for the book’s revolutionary implications despite the fact that the French Revolution is never mentioned directly. Montag and other Marxist theorists claim that the monster represents the dispossessed masses which renders Frankenstein a story with both profound moral and political implications. So, how does our understanding of the novel change if we take the Marxists’ suggestion to read the monster as a figure of the dispossessed masses?
What makes the figure of the creature in Frankenstein so abhorrent and horrific? Victor Frankenstein’s reaction to the reanimation scene in the novel suggests that the creature’s monstrosity touches upon what Kant calls the sublime, namely an experience that cannot be given categorical form, and indeed evokes feelings of boundlessness because it points to an epistemological failure. We argue that the creature induces such dread and horror because he/it resists (or eludes) ontological and epistemological categorization. By drawing on the work on Kant, as well as Alain Badiou, we interpret the reanimation scene in Shelley’s novel as an event, i.e. an occurrence that engenders an ontological rupture and destabilizes epistemology. Ontologically, Frankenstein’s monster functions both as a reminder and a remainder of the abyssal (unground) (or void, in Badiouian terms) at the center of being, this is what is so existentially unsettling and uncanny about the creature.