Harvester of Hearts

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3754-7

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3753-0

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3752-3
Publication Date
August 2018
Page Count
200 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Harvester of Hearts

Motherhood under the Sign of Frankenstein
Rachel Feder

In the period between 1815 and 1820, Mary Shelley wrote her most famous novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, as well as its companion piece, Mathilda, a tragic incest narrative that was confiscated by her father, William Godwin, and left unpublished until 1959. She also gave birth to four—and lost three—children.

In this hybrid text, Rachel Feder interprets Frankenstein and Mathilda within a series of provocative frameworks including Shelley’s experiences of motherhood and maternal loss, twentieth-century feminists’ interests in and attachments to Mary Shelley, and the critic’s own experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Harvester of Hearts explores how Mary Shelley’s exchanges with her children—in utero, in birth, in life, and in death—infuse her literary creations. Drawing on the archives of feminist scholarship, Feder theorizes “elective affinities,” a term she borrows from Goethe to interrogate how the personal attachments of literary critics shape our sense of literary history. Feder blurs the distinctions between intellectual, bodily, literary, and personal history, reanimating the classical feminist discourse on Frankenstein by stepping into the frame.

The result—at once an experimental book of literary criticism, a performative foray into feminist praxis, and a deeply personal lyric essay—not only locates Mary Shelley’s monsters within the folds of maternal identity but also illuminates the connections between the literary and the quotidian.

About the Author

RACHEL FEDER is an assistant professor of English and literary arts at the University of Denver. Her scholarly and creative work has appeared in a range of publications including ELH, Studies in Romanticism, and a poetry chapbook from dancing girl press.

“Feder, well aware of literary-theoretical injunctions against bringing the mess biography into critical matters, goes defiantly ahead and brings in both Shelley's life, not least as a mother, and her own.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Intensely lyrical language energizes Harvester of Hearts throughout, electrifying a work sensitive to the varieties of motherhood and writing: forgetting, erasure, monstrosity, self, romance, suspicion, and elective affinities, to name only some.” —Eric G. Wilson, author of How to Make a Soul: The Wisdom of John Keats

“Both galvanic charge and complex comfort, Rachel Feder’s Harvester of Hearts brings the case home to herself: the case of Mary Shelley, of maternal erasure; of monstrosity; the ongoing shock of women thinking, writing, pregnant, birthing, mothering, forgetting, remembering, together and apart.  This is criticism as care, essay as inquiry, book as gift." —Maureen N. McLane, New York University, author of My Poets