New Book on Mary Shelley by Eileen Hunt Botting

A new publication from University of Pennsylvania Press

Free postage to UK customers

Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child

Political Philosophy in “Frankenstein”

Eileen Hunt Botting

“While there has been a great deal written within literary theory and criticism on the novel Frankenstein, and there is a substantial, and growing, literature within moral and political philosophy on the rights of children and the obligations of parents, Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child is the first book to bring these two areas of inquiry together. Eileen Hunt Botting’s fascinating analysis shows how literary texts, suitably reinterpreted, can make better sense of key philosophical claims.”—David Archard, Queen’s University Belfast

“Treating the creature as an abandoned and abused child, Eileen Hunt Botting brilliantly uses the novel Frankenstein to mount a series of thought experiments that interrogate the enduring political questions of whether children have rights and, if so, which ones. Deftly summarizing the positions of such writers as Hobbes, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, and Onora O’Neill, Botting persuasively argues for a child’s universal rights to care, identity, and love—rights that Botting here extends to disabled, stateless, and genetically modified children.”—Anne K. Mellor, University of California, Los Angeles

“Readers of Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child will never again be able to read Frankenstein simply as a work of Gothic fiction that questioned the counter-theology and scientific bravado of its day. Eileen Hunt Botting, more thoroughly than any previous commentator, has revealed the philosophical content of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and has firmly placed it in the context of modern political thought.”—Gordon Schochet, Rutgers University

From her youth, Mary Shelley immersed herself in the social contract tradition, particularly the educational and political theories of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as the radical philosophies of her parents, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the anarchist William Godwin. Against this background, Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, first published in 1818. In the two centuries since, her masterpiece has been celebrated as a Gothic classic and its symbolic resonance has driven the global success of its publication, translation, and adaptation in theater, film, art, and literature. However, in Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child, Eileen Hunt Botting argues that Frankenstein is more than an original and paradigmatic work of science fiction—it is a profound reflection on a radical moral and political question: do children have rights?

Botting contends that Frankenstein invites its readers to reason through the ethical consequences of a counterfactual premise: what if a man had used science to create a human life without a woman? Immediately after the Creature’s “birth,” his scientist-father abandons him and the unjust and tragic consequences that follow form the basis of Frankenstein’s plot. Botting finds in the novel’s narrative structure a series of interconnected thought experiments that reveal how Shelley viewed Frankenstein’s Creature for what he really was—a stateless orphan abandoned by family, abused by society, and ignored by law. The novel, therefore, compels readers to consider whether children have the right to the fundamental means for their development as humans—namely, rights to food, clothing, shelter, care, love, education, and community.

In Botting’s analysis, Frankenstein emerges as a conceptual resource for exploring the rights of children today, especially those who are disabled, stateless, or genetically modified by medical technologies such as three-parent in vitro fertilization and, perhaps in the near future, gene editing. Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child concludes that the right to share love and community, especially with parents or fitting substitutes, belongs to all children, regardless of their genesis, membership, or social status.

Eileen Hunt Botting is Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and author of Wollstonecraft, Mill, and Women’s Human Rights and Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke, and Rousseau on the Transformation of the Family.

University of Pennsylvania Press | Haney Foundation Series | October 2017 | 232pp |  9780812249620 | HB | £33.00*

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CFP Special Issue on Mary Wollstonecraft in the Journal of Gender Studies

Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist pioneer: Life, Work and Contemporary Importance

Journal of Gender Studies Special issue (Guest Editors: Kathleen Lennon and Rachel Alsop)

Papers are welcome on any aspect of Wollstonecraft’s life, work and legacy from Gender Studies, Philosophy, Politics, History, Literature, Education or any other relevant discipline. To be submitted via ScholarOne  by 22nd January 2018.

Any questions please email Dr Rachel Alsop

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

  • Wollstonecraft’s Life and Legacy
  • Philosophy and Feminism
  • Women and Revolutionary Times
  • Wollstonecraft and her Circle
  • Mothers and Daughters
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Women
  • Travel Writing
  • Women and Politics
  • Reason and Passion: A life of Contradictions
  • Memorialising our Feminist Past


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Deadline approaching: Bridging the Gender Gap Through Time, London, 23 February 2018.

Friday, 23rd February 2018, King’s College London.

Convenors:  Sandrine Bergès (Bilkent), Alan Coffee (King’s)
Keynote Speakers: Eileen Hunt Botting (Notre Dame) and TBA

Conference webpage.

We invite abstracts of between 300 and 500 words. Talks will be 20 minutes long with a further 10 minutes for discussion and questions.

Please send abstracts prepared for anonymous review or any enquiries to by 30 September 2017. We aim to notify participants by 30 October. Registration for all other attendees will open in due course.

Women have had a far deeper and more extensive influence on the history than is commonly realised. Far from confining their interests to questions of gender and domestic matters, women have been writing on all aspects of philosophy for as long as such a discipline can be identified. Indeed, it is often surprising just how much high quality philosophical and political thought women have produced throughout history given that so few of the writers are known outside of a few specialist departments.
Across history, women’s writing is now being recovered not as marginal but as theoretically important in its own right. Amongst the many names one could list, we might think of Hildegard von Bingen and Christine de Pizan from the Middle Ages; Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Mary Astell in the Early Modern Period; Catharine Macaulay, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, as well as Olympe de Gouges and Sophie de Grouchy, in the revolutionary period of the Enlightenment; to say nothing of Mary Prince, Harriet Jacobs, and Sojourner Truth amongst the numerous slave and abolitionist writings of the nineteenth century.
In spite of the many difficulties women have had in making their voices heard philosophically – women did not have access to the highest levels of education, they often had to confine themselves to safe subjects to avoid social censure, they frequently found it necessary to write anonymously or to destroy one’s work, and they were in any case not normally taken seriously – their work far was more influential in their own time than we often realise today, and it still has the potential to speak to us in our own time through its influence on contemporary debates and issues.
The purpose of this conference is both to raise awareness of the rich historical tradition of women’s philosophy as well as to help make the connection with current social, moral, political and philosophical debate by bringing neglected women writers, past and present, into dialogue with today’s discourses.
We invite submissions for papers on any related theme, including but not limited to those named above. We are also interested in papers focused on women writing from a non-Western tradition, or under conditions of social or political oppression today. Presentations may address any area of philosophy, or of social, moral and political thinking more widely conceived. Some suggested topics include women philosophers on education, social reform, or revolution.

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Talk at Boğaziçi: Fiona TOMKINSON on ‘ANNE CONWAY: Autonomy, Infinity & Gender’ (Friday, 15/09/2017)

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Paderborn 3-6 October: Autumn School on the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists

The Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists (HWPS) encourages international graduate students, as well as interested faculty and scholars, to apply for participation in our II. Autumn School at Paderborn University, from October 3rd to 6th, 2017.

From October 3rd to October 6th, the Center will offer a Masterclass on Women Philosophers from 1600-1900, held by Prof. Mary Ellen Waithe, Prof. Sandrine Bergès and Prof. Susanna Åkerman-Hjern. You will have the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in this are of research, to enrich your perspective in an intercultural setting, and to engage in direct interaction with other scholars and lecturers. The conference language will be English. Participation in the Autumn School is free, but application for acceptance is required.

The autumn school offers units on Christine of Sweden (1626-1689), Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797),  Sophie de Grouchy, Marquise de Condorcet (1764-1822), as well as lectures on modern women philosophers from 1600-1850.

For further information about the II. Autumn School, please check the homepage of the event:

Applications can be submitted until September 20th. However, we strongly encourage interested students to apply well in advance, as suitable applicants will receive notice of acceptance prior to the final deadline and space is limited.

The application should be submitted via email to in a single PDF file containing a CV, a short letter of interest (2 pages max.), and a note indicating which courses you would be most interested in.

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CFA Second Budapest Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy – Personal identity, self-interpretation

This looks as a good opportunity to discuss work by early modern women.

Deadline for abstracts 1 August.

26–27 October, 2017
Institute of Philosophy, Eötvös Loránd University
Budapest, Hungary

Keynote Speaker:
Udo THIEL (Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz)

We are pleased to announce the second meeting of the Budapest Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy which is intended as the second edition of a yearly event that brings together established scholars, young researchers and advanced graduate students working on the field of early modern philosophy (ca. from 1600 to 1781). The aim is to foster collaboration among researchers working in different traditions and institutional contexts. We welcome abstracts for papers on any topic relevant to personal identity and self-interpretation, broadly conceived, in early modern philosophy. Proposals are particularly welcome that draw on resources from multiple different traditions (e.g. French and Anglo-Saxon).
Presentations should be in English and aim at approximately 30 minutes. Please send an abstract of maximum 400 words, prepared for blind review. The body of the email should include the author’s details (name, position affiliation, contact details, title of the abstract). The deadline for abstract submissions is 1 August 2017. Applicants will receive a response regarding their submission by 1 September 2017.
There are no fees for registration. Attendance is free and most welcome. However, no financial support can be provided to support travel expenses and accommodation.
Submissions and inquiries should be sent to Olivér István Tóth (

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CFP History of Moral and Political Philosophy: Radicalism and Compromise

Please note that the organizers encourage submissions about the contribution of women philosophers of the past.
 III Colloquium in the History of Moral and Political Philosophy

University of Minho
Braga, Portugal
Theme: Radicalism and Compromise
Our keynote speaker this year will be: Prof. Avishai Margalit (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
The Centre for Ethics, Politics and Society of the University of Minho is pleased to announce the III  Braga Colloquium in the History of Moral and Political Philosophy, an international annual conference to be held every year in January at the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal. The purpose of this conference series is to promote the study of the tradition of political and moral philosophy and its legacy in shaping our institutions, culture and beliefs. But it will focus on how this tradition can contribute to tackling the challenges our societies are facing today. Every year the conference will have a specific theme, which will be chosen by taking into consideration the current global political situation.
In line with the spirit behind this new series of conferences, the third edition of the Braga Colloquium in the History of Moral and Political Philosophy will be dedicated to explore the ideas of “radicalism” and “compromise”.
Politics has frequently been defined as the art of the possible or the art of compromise. More dramatically, it has been depicted as the realm of Faustian deals and tragic choices. Max Webber famously wrote that the political call demands endurance in the face of disappointment. It is the realm of frustration and sacrifices, of fragile equilibriums between fiat justitia and raison d’état.
Sometimes the existence of political structures of accountability relaxes the dependence on character, reputation, and honor among conflicting parties. Reasonable civic duties suffice to deflate social conflicts and to compensate offended actors. Lacking these institutions, integrity becomes non-negotiable for social trust.
On occasion, however, a social order of tolerance would not emerge without sacrificing the moral integrity of former heroes that we now consider dogmatic integrists. Conversely, this institutional order of tolerance also allows the political space for the reconstruction of identity claims for recognition that derive their radical strength from their intrinsic aversion to political settlement.
From a historical point of view, our political languages and attitudes towards compromise, negotiation, bargaining, and agreement have changed in a myriad of contexts and traditions. As so did our conceptions of what seemed once worth sacrificing or defending.
The aim of this Colloquium is to bring to the fore philosophical treatments from various philosophical traditions of these aspects of political activity, and to do so from an historical perspective that might help us shed light on the shape of things as they are now.
The Colloquium welcomes original explorations of political conflicts that illuminate these dimensions of conceptual change in radicalism and compromise from different traditions and perspectives.
Abstract submission:
Proposals must be sent via Registration Form available on our site :
Further queries can be directed to
Deadline for abstract submissions: November 15, 2017.
Deadline for notification of acceptance: December 15, 2017.
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