Resurrecting Frankenstein: Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and the metafictional monster within

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Abstract

This article examines Peter Ackroyd’s popular Gothic novel The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (2008), which is a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s famous Gothic novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus ([1818] 2003). The basic premise of Ackroyd’s narrative seemingly resembles Shelley’s own, as Victor Frankenstein woefully reflects on the events that have brought about his mysterious downfall, and like the original text the voice of the Monster interrupts his creator to recount passages from his own afterlife. However, Ackroyd’s adaption is instead set within the historical context of the original story’s creation in the early nineteenth century. Ackroyd’s Frankenstein studies at Oxford, befriends radical Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, moves to London to conduct his reanimation experiments and even accompanies the Shelleys, Byron and Polidori on that fateful holiday when the original novel was conceived. This article explores how Ackroyd’s novel, as a form of the contemporary ‘popular’ Gothic, functions as an uncanny doppelgänger of Shelley’s Frankenstein. By blurring the boundaries between history and fiction, the original text and the context of its creation haunt Ackroyd’s adaptation in uncannily doubled and self-reflexive ways that speak to Frankenstein’s legacy for the Gothic in popular culture. The dénouement of Ackroyd’s narrative reveals that the Monster is Frankenstein’s psychological doppelgänger, a projection of insanity, and thus Frankenstein himself is the Monster. This article proposes that this final twist is an uncanny reflection of the narrative’s own ‘Frankenstein-ian’ monstrous metafictional construction, for it argues that Ackroyd’s story is a ‘strange case(book)’ haunted by the ghosts of its Gothic literary predecessors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)179-196
Number of pages18
JournalThe Australasian Journal of Popular Culture
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

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Frankenstein
Casebook
Gothic
Gothic Novel
Ghost
Romantic Poets
Psychological
Downfall
Insanity
Afterlife
Experiment
Holidays
Popular Culture
Creator
Historical Context
Monstrous
History
Fiction
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Cite this

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title = "Resurrecting Frankenstein: Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and the metafictional monster within",
abstract = "This article examines Peter Ackroyd’s popular Gothic novel The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (2008), which is a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s famous Gothic novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus ([1818] 2003). The basic premise of Ackroyd’s narrative seemingly resembles Shelley’s own, as Victor Frankenstein woefully reflects on the events that have brought about his mysterious downfall, and like the original text the voice of the Monster interrupts his creator to recount passages from his own afterlife. However, Ackroyd’s adaption is instead set within the historical context of the original story’s creation in the early nineteenth century. Ackroyd’s Frankenstein studies at Oxford, befriends radical Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, moves to London to conduct his reanimation experiments and even accompanies the Shelleys, Byron and Polidori on that fateful holiday when the original novel was conceived. This article explores how Ackroyd’s novel, as a form of the contemporary ‘popular’ Gothic, functions as an uncanny doppelg{\"a}nger of Shelley’s Frankenstein. By blurring the boundaries between history and fiction, the original text and the context of its creation haunt Ackroyd’s adaptation in uncannily doubled and self-reflexive ways that speak to Frankenstein’s legacy for the Gothic in popular culture. The d{\'e}nouement of Ackroyd’s narrative reveals that the Monster is Frankenstein’s psychological doppelg{\"a}nger, a projection of insanity, and thus Frankenstein himself is the Monster. This article proposes that this final twist is an uncanny reflection of the narrative’s own ‘Frankenstein-ian’ monstrous metafictional construction, for it argues that Ackroyd’s story is a ‘strange case(book)’ haunted by the ghosts of its Gothic literary predecessors.",
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AB - This article examines Peter Ackroyd’s popular Gothic novel The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (2008), which is a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s famous Gothic novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus ([1818] 2003). The basic premise of Ackroyd’s narrative seemingly resembles Shelley’s own, as Victor Frankenstein woefully reflects on the events that have brought about his mysterious downfall, and like the original text the voice of the Monster interrupts his creator to recount passages from his own afterlife. However, Ackroyd’s adaption is instead set within the historical context of the original story’s creation in the early nineteenth century. Ackroyd’s Frankenstein studies at Oxford, befriends radical Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, moves to London to conduct his reanimation experiments and even accompanies the Shelleys, Byron and Polidori on that fateful holiday when the original novel was conceived. This article explores how Ackroyd’s novel, as a form of the contemporary ‘popular’ Gothic, functions as an uncanny doppelgänger of Shelley’s Frankenstein. By blurring the boundaries between history and fiction, the original text and the context of its creation haunt Ackroyd’s adaptation in uncannily doubled and self-reflexive ways that speak to Frankenstein’s legacy for the Gothic in popular culture. The dénouement of Ackroyd’s narrative reveals that the Monster is Frankenstein’s psychological doppelgänger, a projection of insanity, and thus Frankenstein himself is the Monster. This article proposes that this final twist is an uncanny reflection of the narrative’s own ‘Frankenstein-ian’ monstrous metafictional construction, for it argues that Ackroyd’s story is a ‘strange case(book)’ haunted by the ghosts of its Gothic literary predecessors.

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