While on my way to see the film version of the National Theater’s performance of Frankenstein I had the following stream of consciousness.
My thoughts began- innocently enough – with a thought on second thought I would have disavowed but since this was only a stream of consciousness I didn’t wait for my judgement to intervene but just plowed on.
While crossing Broadway and 10 street I mused that many interpretations of Frankenstein fall somewhere between two positions. In the first, Frankenstein recoils in horror at the site of the monster and refuses to give the creature a name thus dooming it to walk through the world outside of the Symbolic order a half-thing and a monster. This is a position I thought that stems from Mary Shelley’s horror story itself.
The second position nearly reverses things. It is the solution found in many ‘popular’ Hollywood remakes of the Frankenstein story where the creature is given a name: Frankenstein so that if you ask the average Joe who Frankenstein was they will say it was the creature. But Hollywood only gives the creature a name so that it can be hounded out of the Symbolic by peasants with pitchforks!
A psychoanalytic way to think this is the following: when Frankenstein the scientist refuses to name the creature, he refuses to ‘suppose a subject’ is there in the pre symbolic grunts of the baby-monster. The monster is the object of Frankenstein’s wild jouissance which he disavows because he cannot see a subject there he only see the inverse image of his own death drive which then goes off into the world to do mischief and become Frankenstein’s obsessions.
In this reading the monster is Frankenstein’s symptom and in particular his failure to be able to separate from his own fusional object. Alain Vanier describes how the child at first functions as the mother’s phallus and a fusional object and how difficult it is to give up and replace this fusional object relations with a transitional object capable of being ‘lost’. What is lost being precisely the fantasy of that fusion is possible.
But for this to happen, the mother or caregivers must be able to suppose a subject is there even before one exists. By the same token, Frankenstein, as the monster’s creator, has a fusional object relation to his creation, albeit one that overwhelming negative and deadly, and he never is able to really suppose a subject there; thus, his relation to the creature remains plagued by an inability to oppose this fusional object relation with one that supposes a separation.
When the creature speaks and forces Frankenstein to relate to him as a proto-subject Frankenstein retreats in horror back to the position of the fusional object. And it is in this way that we can say the creature is the symptom of Frankenstein’s obsessions, suggesting Frankenstein himself was the product of a family who could not suppose him to be a subject or allow him to separate; and, as a consequence, Frankenstein’s mad fantasies of conquering the ‘secrets of nature’ was itself nothing more than this fusional fantasies in all its mad and deadly forms transposed onto an object of science.