The Arctic and “Other Spaces” in Mary Shelley’s <i>Frankenstein</i>


  • Jacob Bachinger Memorial University of Newfoundland


Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, Arctic, ice, Northern narratives, Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”, heterotopias, polar exploration, ships in literature


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.        


Author Biography

Jacob Bachinger, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Jacob Bachinger is a PhD student at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  He has taught English at various colleges and universities across Canada.  He has had creative work, book reviews, and academic work published in journals such as The Fiddlehead, The Prairie Journal, paperplates magazine, and The Northern Review.