Frankenstein at 200 – why hasn’t Mary Shelley been given the respect she deserves?

Shelley’s Frankenstein has spoken to technological and cultural anxieties from the Enlightenment to #MeToo. But its author’s achievements have too often been dismissed or treated with scepticism

I became fascinated by Mary Shelley and her most famous novel because of her husband. Back in 2011, I found myself trying to make sense of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry. It was a tricky assignment. Percy was above all a creature of his own cultural moment, and nothing dates like a zeitgeist. Yet Mary’s Frankenstein comes out of just the same heady cultural and political nexus as her husband’s verse, and her novel has continued to fascinate us. Two hundred years after its publication in January 1818, it still speaks to us directly as a myth about contemporary life. It has inspired film adaptations across genres, from the comedy caper Abbott and Costello ...