Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Disability, and the Injustice of Misrecognition

Amber Knight


This article makes the case that the normative aspirations of recognition politics are worth pursuing as a dimension of disability politics— although the tactics need to be revised— through an interpretation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Specifically, I read Frankenstein's Creature as a visibly disabled subject, as someone who is misrecognized and mistreated due to his body's physical features, in order to analyze the tragedy of the novel: how the not-so-monstrous Creature can never see himself as anything other than a monster since he is never afforded the positive recognition he desires. The article concludes by considering how the tragedy could have been avoided in an attempt to envision a better path toward social justice for people with disabilities and other victims of identity-based subordination. More broadly, this article attempts to bring Mary Shelley into the political theory canon, casting her as a progressive social critic who believed that misrecognition creates monsters out of those who are negatively labelled as such.


Mary Shelley; Frankenstein; recognition; Patchen Markell; disability culture

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2020 Amber Knight

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)