This article reads the frame narrative of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
through the lens of Michel Foucault’s theory of heterotopias. It begins by contextualizing Shelley’s Arctic settings, and demonstrates that the Arctic was an issue in the news during the period when Shelley was working on the novel. It then surveys the critical literature on Shelley’s narrative, in which her Arctic sequence is generally read as a condemnation of Britain’s imperialist policy toward northern exploration. Turning from those strictly historically inflected concerns, this essay analyzes Shelley’s representation of Arctic and northern spaces, and especially Walton’s icebound ship, as heterotopias. In doing so, it examines how Shelley represents the Arctic as an other(ed) space where Captain Walton hopes to transform himself from a failed poet to a renowned explorer. It also examines the relationship in Shelley’s novel between these other(ed) spaces and narrative itself.
Frankenstein; Mary Shelley; Arctic; ice; Northern narratives; Michel Foucault; “Of Other Spaces”; heterotopias; polar exploration; ships in literature