Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Michael Loudon


This study focuses upon the letters, journals and selected fiction of Mary Shelley and reveals that Shelley engages in the processes of anti-ideology and artistic irony to help her explore gender identity. To show her consistent use of these processes, I juxtapose excerpts from her letters and journals with excerpts from her fiction. The fiction selections are narrowed to three: Frankenstein, Mathilda and The Last Man. In addition, I examine her writing and her use of anti-ideology and artistic irony relative to the influences of her significant others: her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, her father William Godwin and her husband Percy Shelley. In doing so, I also consider the influences of Mary Wollstonecraft's and William Godwin's ideologies.

I find that using the processes of anti-ideology to question gender construction and identity does not ultimately work for Shelley since her creative imagination cannot effectively escape the influence of masculine constructions about gender. My study reveals that these masculine constructions are firmly rooted within Shelley's imagination and, as a result, they appear throughout Shelley's journals and letters and in her characterization, plot and figures of speech. Because the masculine constructions about gender identity so heavily influence Shelley's creativity, the anti-ideological questioning process and the artistic irony processes of creation and de-creation do not succeed for Shelley.