In this paper, I will investigate how Saint Orlan’s The Bride of Frankenstein revives the oppressed woman subject in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and how she creates the image of a cyborg woman to transgress boundaries and open more possibilities.
In the first part, I will try to understand how Mary Shelly’s authorship and women’s subjects in Frankenstein was oppressed in 18th century. Leigh Hunt, the contemporary writer of Shelly, commented her as “a lady of what is called a masculine understanding. That is to say, of great natural abilities not obstructed by bad education” (316). His use of the phrase “ masculine understanding” and “bad education” reveals the contempt of female talent in patriarchy society. Not only the authorship of Shelly but women roles in the novel are also repressed. Carol Diethe points out the banishment of women perspectives and the loss of power of restoration:
[Shelley’s] reprobation manifests itself in the lack of any woman character in the novel who, being closer to her nature with her intuition and sympathy, could set affairs to rights at the end of the tale… in Frankenstein then, woman’s capacity to restore order is precisely what is missing….(429)
Following part I will introduces what’s the historical significant meaning of Jams’s Whale’s Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein and how he successfully uses film to create the prototype of the bride. In Kate Ince’s “Cyborg Woman, Posthumanity, and Technological Body Art,” she describes how the film creates classical image of the absent role in novel: “With a pale face, full lips, a fixed robotic stare, an evident scar along neck and an electric white wave standing out against the pile-up framed hair (82). Besides the successful characters setting, the film also reflects the historical meaning of 1930s: “The representation of the enthusiasm of science reflects the danger of the rising fascist ideology which utilizing the science as a tool to reach the race purification,” said Johanna M. Smith. (419)
Finally, I will refer to the concept of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s “facialization machine” and “molecular woman” to illustrate how Saint Orlan demonstrates fluidity of woman by maniac plastic surgeries done in her body performance The Bride of Frankestein. The facialization machine, according to Deleuze and Guattari, can impose signifier on human’s face which is like a blank canvas so that it can achieve the cultural and political goal:
Mask assures the erection, the construction of the face, the facialization of the head and the body: the mask is now the face itself, the abstraction or the operation of the face. The inhumanity of the face (181).
Like facialization machine, the fluidity of her face reveals the concept of the “moleculer woman” suggested by Deleuze and Guattari: “What we term a molar entity is…the woman as defined by her form, endowed with organs and functions and assigned as a subject” (275). Moreover, Orlan’s The Bride of Frankenstein also manifests Donna Haroway’s “cyborg woman”, blurrs the boundaries of 3M (Mother, Monster, and Machine), and bring more possibilites for women. Haraway tries to describe the significance of cyborg women in the “Simians, cyborg, and woman”:
The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labor, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity (150).
By these reference, we can understand the significance of Orlan’s body art and embrace of more imaginations of women subjects.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: Brian Massumi, 1987. Print.
Haraway, Donna J. “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Haraway, Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women The Reinvention of Nature. New York:: Routledge, 1991. 149-81. Print.
Ince, Kate. “Cyborg Woman, Posthumanity, and Technological Body Art.” Ince, Kate. Orlan: Millennial Female. New York: Bloomsbury, 2000. 73-98. Print.
Smith, Johanna M. “Cooped Up’ with ‘Sad Trash’: Domesticity and the Sciences in Frankenstein.” Smith, Johanna M. Frankenstein (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism). Boston: Bedford, 2000. 313-49. Print.
Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus. London: Oxford UP, 2008 Print.