Theodora Goss’s Athena Club series uses neo-Victorian monster mashup to interrogate contemporary identity politics. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), the first book in the series, chronicles the adventures of the daughters of famous ‘mad scientists’ from Victorian literature, and their eventual formation of the Athena Club to help other women like themselves. Characters include Mary Jekyll (the daughter of Henry Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1886), Diana Hyde (daughter of Jekyll’s alter-ego Edward Hyde), Catherine Moreau (the puma woman from H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, 1896), Justine Frankenstein (a version of the female creature from Frankenstein, 1818), Beatrice Rappaccini (from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1844 short story ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’). The books draw supporting characters from a range of late Victorian fiction.
By presenting a world full of difference, populated by not one but multiple monsters, the Athena Club novels remind us that even when the monster is the privileged subject of its own narrative, there are still Others on the margins. As Judith Butler writes in Undoing Gender, we must ‘underscore the value of being beside oneself, of being a porous boundary, given over to others, finding oneself in a trajectory of desire in which one is taken out of oneself, and resituated irreversibly in a field of others in which one is not the presumptive center’ (2004, 25). As this paper will show, Athena Club’s textually and diegetically monstrous revival of past fictions decentres its subjects, placing them alongside each other rather than against the Other.
About the speaker
Megen de Bruin-Molé (@MegenJM | Frankenfiction.com) is a Teaching Fellow in Digital Media Practice at the University of Southampton. Her research interests include neo-Victorianism, popular feminism, and contemporary remix culture, and you can find her published work in Brill’s Neo-Victorian edited series, and the journals Deletion, Science Fiction Film and Television, Film Criticism and Assuming Gender. Her monograph Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture comes out later this year.