Main content


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Shelley's story of Victor Frankenstein and the creature he makes from cadavers and then rejects - only for the monster to take his revenge

In a programme first broadcast in May 2019, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Shelley's (1797-1851) Gothic story of a Swiss natural philosopher, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature he makes from parts of cadavers and which he then abandons, horrified by his appearance, and never names. Rejected by all humans who see him, the monster takes his revenge on Frankenstein, killing those dear to him. Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was 18, prompted by a competition she had with Byron and her husband Percy Shelley to tell a ghost story while they were rained in in the summer of 1816 at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.

The image of Mary Shelley, above, was first exhibited in 1840.


Karen O'Brien
Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford

Michael Rossington
Professor of Romantic Literature at Newcastle University


Jane Thomas
Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of Hull

Producer: Simon Tillotson

This programme is a repeat

Available now

55 minutes

Last on

Thu 19 Mar 2020 21:30


Karen O'Brien at the University of Oxford

Michael Rossington at Newcastle University

Jane Thomas at the University of Hull

Frankenstein: Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the image of a literary family – Bodleian Library

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus - The Shelley-Godwin Archive

Frankenstein – Wikipedia



Chris Baldick, In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing (Clarendon Press, 1990)

E. J. Clery, Women’s Gothic:  From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley (Liverpool University Press, 2000)

Daisy Hay, The Making of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Bodleian Library, 2019)

Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder:  How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (HarperPress, 2009)

Margaret Homans, Bearing the Word; Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-century Women’s Writing (University of Chicago Press)

George Levine (ed.), One Culture: Essays in Science and Literature (University of Wisconsin Press), especially ‘Frankenstein: A Feminist Critique of Science’ by Anne K. Mellor

Anne K. Mellor, Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters (Routledge, 1990)

Robert Miles, Gothic Writing 1750-1820: A Genealogy (Manchester University Press, 2014)

Timothy Morton, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2002)

Karen O’Brien and Peter Garside (eds.), The Oxford History of the Novel in English, Volume 2, English and British Fiction, 1750-1820 (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Fiona Sampson, In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein (Profile, 2018)

Esther Schor (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Mary Shelley (ed. J. Paul Hunter), Frankenstein (first published 1818; Norton, 1996)

Mary Shelley (ed. Marilyn Butler), Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (first published 1818; Oxford University Press, 1998)

Mary Shelley (ed. Charles E. Robinson), The Original Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus:  The Original Two-Volume Novel of 1816-1817 from the Bodleian Library Manuscripts (Vintage, 2009)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (ed. Susan Wolfson), Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (Longman, 2003)

Miranda Seymour, Mary Shelley (Faber and Faber, 2011)

Andrew Smith, Gothic Literature (Edinburgh University Press, 2013)

Andrew Smith (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

William St Clair, The Godwins and the Shelleys:  The Biography of a Family (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991)

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror (first published 1886; Penguin, 2003)

John Turney, Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Science, Genetics and Popular Culture (Yale University Press, 2000)

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (first published 1890; Wordsworth, 1992)

Angela Wright, Mary Shelley: Gothic Authors: Critical Revisions (University of Wales Press, 2018)



  • Thu 16 May 2019 09:00
  • Thu 16 May 2019 21:30
  • Thu 19 Mar 2020 09:00
  • Thu 19 Mar 2020 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.