Married to one romantic poet and living near another, Mary Shelley at the time she was writing Frankenstein experienced with great intensity the self-contradictory demand that daughters embody both the mother whose death makes language possible by making it necessary and the figurative substitutes for that mother who constitute the prototype of the signifying chain. At the same time, as a mother herself, she experienced with far greater intensity than did any of the authors considered so far a proto-Victorian ideology of motherhood, as Mary Poovey has shown. 1 This experience leads Shelley both to figure her writing as mothering and to bear or transmit the words of her husband. 2 Thus Shelley not only practices the daughter'S obligatory and voluntary identification with the literal, as do Dorothy Wordsworth and Charlotte and Emily Bronte, but she also shares with George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell (and again with Charlotte Bronte) their concern with writing as literalization, as a form of mothering. It is to Shelley's handling of these contradictory demands, and to her criticism of their effect on women's writing, that my reading of Frankenstein will turn.