Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College


literary archives

Inspiration by Mary Shelley


After viewing the archives online, I definitely would prefer to see them in person. I decided to look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein notebooks. I found them fascinating. Seeing her handwriting and her edits make me appreciate having access to a word processor! It made me think about how those who did not live during the handwriting era are not familiar with that experience; and, therefore, do not view the notebooks with the same appreciation as those who have written a great deal by hand. Mary Shelley’s word choices and sentence deletions give me a sense of her skills as a writer. Even in 1816, there was a great deal of revision, revision, and more revision! Examining the writing, I wonder what type of pen Shelley used to write in her notebook. I found myself trying to figure out if she wrote in a hurry as to catch all of her ideas; or, did she take her time? Having seen the notebook, the handwriting, and the revision makes Shelley seem much more present. Seeing the work allows us to see the process as well as reinforces the image of a committed author as she writes a timeless classic. I’ve never taken the time to read Frankenstein, but after viewing the archives I’ve decided to add it to my reading list!

I imagine that advantages of archival data include having the information located all in one place (i.e. Building or website); the information is accessible—permission is not needed to view; and, archival information can be used to track changes in field of study as the archives are historical in nature. The struggles of archival research may include having found out the information you are looking for is not available; or, it may be available, but difficult to decipher. Also, perhaps the archival research is not online making it take longer to find the documents you need—travel may be required. Lastly, there may be archival information written by the author you are researching but the information available is not of any use to you.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein Ch. 2 Archive

Mary Shelley: A Biography

Archived for the Future 

Archival work seems to be long and painstakingly hard. Although it is interesting to research, the job of researching, translating, and organizing the works of one, or more authors must be maddening. It seems to be something you dedicate your life’s work to, and not something you can just pick up or leave whenever you see fit. 

The Shelley-Godwin Archive is very nicely organized. It’s simply laid out and everything is labeled and explained. I was particularly interested in seeing the original, handwritten works of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. It’s fascinating to see and actually comprehend that a book of such fame and high caliber had been handwritten, scribbled practically, on plain old paper. 

Shelley, M. “Frankenstein, MS. Abinger C. 56”, in The Shelley-Godwin Archive, MS. Abinger c. 56, 19v. Retrieved from

Although I could never do such a job, I feel that the preservation and archival benefits of the profession are probably worth all the hours these dedicated people spend on this work. It has educational and historical value to keep up with and continue archiving past authors works. Even if it’s unappreciated now (while I certainly don’t think it is) I believe that future generations of appreciate all of the hard work that goes into the preservation of literary history.

Sarah Lamonica

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