Frankenstein, ontology, sexual difference

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The project of monstrosity depicted in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein brings a vital clue to resolving the ontological inquiry of sexual difference first brought up by Jacques Derrida. The novel, seeking to define the monster's parenthood, involves in it a father and a mother, and hence sexual difference. Yet it is parthenogenesis as dominated by the scientist-father conceit that actually holds sway, leaving the family romance of monstrosity devoid of the role of woman. When he is later demanded a female companion from his monster, Frankenstein must turn into a monster himself through his monstrous imagination of gender: he proceeds by reenacting the imago of the dead mother, without questioning the metaphysical binarism involved (such as form and matter, a derivative of mater, "mother"). We consider the difference in creating a he-monster and a she-monster-who alone is molded after the dead mother - as sexual difference. That Frankenstein chooses to abort his creation of a she-monster later may hint at the metaphysical failure to incarnate the dead mother's imago in his teratogeny. Such an abortion hastens the death of his Elizabeth however, creating an aporia for Frankenstein that hints at the monstrosity of metaphysics. When Derrida questions why the number of gender must stop at "two," at metaphysics, he may not be aware that two is a monstrous number, an insight which Mary Shelley's Frankenstein alone can provide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-104
Number of pages14
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2006


  • Deconstruction
  • Frankenstein
  • Gender
  • Geschlecht
  • Jacques Derrida
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Mary Shelley
  • Metaphysics
  • Ontology
  • Sexual difference
  • Teratogeny

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