Fortnightly logo

Logics of Self-Love

Focusing on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1831), Patricia Meyer Spacks ponders to what ends and with what effect the novel includes a sympathetic first-person account of the monster's experience. On the one hand, the reader is invited to react with horror to the physical monstrosity and the destructive behavior of the nameless creature that Frankenstein manufactures. On the other hand, the creature himself reports that he is murderous only because he has faced rejection and no one will respond to his need for sympathy. Spacks asks: "How are we to feel about this horrifying monster and the characters that surround him?" To arrive at some answers Spacks will place Frankenstein in its historical setting, considering the 18th-century debate about self-love versus sympathy.

Educated at Rollins College, Yale University, and the University of California at Berkeley, Spacks has taught at Wellesley College, Yale University, and the University of Virginia. Currently an Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English and chair of the English department at Virginia, Spacks is the author of a number of important critical works, including The Female Imagination (1975), The Adolescent Idea: Myths of Youth and Adult Imagination (1981), A Distant Prospect: Eighteenth-Century Views of Childhood (1982), Gossip (1986), and Desire and Truth: Functions of Plot in Eighteenth-Century Novels (1990). Her most recent book, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind (1994), was released last December. Spacks is known for her wonderful talent in writing about complex and fascinating ideas in an accessible and clear fashion. Please join us for what will be a lively and engaging discussion.