Volta’s Battery, Animal Electricity, and Frankenstein (article preprint)
Although Frankenstein critics generally agree that the battery gives life to the monster, they have missed the significance of Volta’s invention to the novel. This essay situates Frankenstein within the Volta/Galvani debate about the existence of animal electricity. Since Volta invented the battery precisely to refute the existence of animal electricity, Mary Shelley harnesses the battery to undercut vitalism. In thinking about the battery and the curious material status of electricity, she wonders how experiments might distinguish between life and the mere appearance of life.