Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Cultural Studies

Editor-in-Chief: Miller, Toby

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

The Frankenstein Meme: Penny Dreadful and The Frankenstein Chronicles as Adaptations

Barbara Braid
Published Online: 2017-11-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0021


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is one of the most adaptable and adapted novels of all time, spurring countless renditions in film, television, comic books, cartoons, and other products of popular culture. Like a meme, this story adapts itself to changing cultural contexts by replication with mutation. This article examines the adaptive and appropriative features of two recent examples of such renditions in the form of television series, Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) and The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015). It discusses palimpsestic appropriations used in these shows, their depiction of Frankenstein and his Creatures, and above all, the themes and their meanings which these twenty-first-century appropriations of Frankenstein offer.

Keywords: appropriation; palimpsest; biofiction


  • Aynsley, E. E., and W. A. Campbell. “Johann Konrad Dippel, 1673-1734.” Medical History 6.3 (July 1962): 281-6. PubMed Central. Web. 28 August 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1034731/>Google Scholar

  • Bartoněk, Antonin. “Mycenaean words in Homer.” Clairis, Christos. Recherches en linquistique grecque. L’Harmattan, 2002. 91-4. Google Book Search. Web. 12 August 2017. <https://books.google.pl/books?id=KKWlkCfX1ZsC&hl=pl&source=gbs_navlinks_s>Google Scholar

  • Blackmore, Susan. The Meme Machine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.Google Scholar

  • Blake, William. “The Little Girl Lost.” Blake. The Complete Poems. Ed. W. H. Stevenson. 3rd ed. Harrow: Pearson Longman, 2007: 75-7. Google Book Search. Web. 20 August 2017. <https://books.google.pl/books?id=JKSOAwAAQBAJ&dq=Blake.+The+Complete+Poems&hl=pl&source=gbs_navlinks_s>Google Scholar

  • Branagh, Kenneth. Dir. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. TriStar Pictures, 1994. Film.Google Scholar

  • Brooks, Mel. Dir. Young Frankenstein. Gruskoff/Venture Films, 1974. Film.Google Scholar

  • Carroll, Samantha J. “Putting the ‘Neo’ Back into Neo-Victorian: The Neo-Victorian Novel as Postmodern Revisionist Fiction.” Neo-Victorian Studies 3.2 (2010): 172-205. Web. 12 August 2013. <http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/>Google Scholar

  • Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminine, Psychoanalysis. 1993. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.Google Scholar

  • Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.Google Scholar

  • Floresu, Radu. In Search of Frankenstein: Exploring the Myth Behind Mary Shelley’s Monster. London: Robson Books, 1996. Print.Google Scholar

  • Green, Stephanie. “Lily Frankenstein: The Gothic New Woman in Penny Dreadful.” Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 28, June 2017. Web. 12 July 2017. <http://refractory.unimelb.edu.au/2017/06/14/green/>Google Scholar

  • Grove, Philip B. “Proteus.” Wester’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. Cologne: Könemann, 1993. 1824. Print.Google Scholar

  • Hutcheon, Linda, with Siobhan O’Flynn. A Theory of Adaptation. 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.Google Scholar

  • Jameson, Frederic. Postmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991. Print.Google Scholar

  • Kaplan, Cora. Victoriana-Histories, Fictions, Criticism. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 2007. Print.Google Scholar

  • Kirchknopf, Andrea. “(Re)workings of Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Definitions, Terminology, Contexts.” Neo-Victorian Studies 1.1 (2008): 53-80. Web. 5 April 2009. <http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/>Google Scholar

  • Kohlke, Marie-Luise. “Neo-Victorian Biofiction and the Special/Spectral Case of Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Hottentot Venus.” Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies 18.3 (2013): 4-21. Sydney Open Journals Online. Web. 3 May 2017. <https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/AJVS/article/view/9382>Google Scholar

  • Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve. The Coherence of Gothic Conventions. New York and London: Methuen, 1980. Print.Google Scholar

  • Lackey, Michael. “Locating and Defining the Bio in Biofiction.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 31.1 (2016): 3-10. Taylor and Francis Online. Web. 3 May 2017. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08989575.2016.1095583>CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lee, Alison and Frederick D. King. “From Text, to Myth, to Meme: Penny Dreadful and Adaptation.” Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens 82 (2015). Revues.org. Web. 12 July 201. <https://cve.revues.org/2343> Google Scholar

  • Leitch, Thomas. “Adaptation and Intertextuality, or, What isn’t an Adaptation, and What Does it Matter?” A Companion to Literature, Film, and Adaptation. Ed. Deborah Cartmell. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2012: 87-104. Print.Google Scholar

  • Letissier, Georges. “Dickens and Post-Victorian Fiction.” Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film. Ed. Susana Onega and Christian Gutleben. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, 2004. 111-128. Print.Google Scholar

  • Marsden, Jean I. “Introduction.” The Appropriation of Shakespeare: Post-Renaissance Reconstructions of The Works and the & Myth. Ed. Jean I. Mardsen. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991: 1-28. Google Books Search. Web. 21 August 2017. <https://books.google.pl/books/about/The_Appropriation_of_Shakespeare.html?id=VTlaAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y>Google Scholar

  • Milton, John. (1667). Paradise Lost. London: Charles Tilt, 1838. Print.Google Scholar

  • Moulin, Joanny. “Biofiction.” The Biography Society. Web. 3 March 2017. <http://biographysociety.org/tag/biofiction/>Google Scholar

  • Peake, Richard Brinsley. Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein. [1823] (August 2011). Romantic Circles. Web. 11 July 2017 <http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/peake/index.html>Google Scholar

  • Penny Dreadful. Prod. John Logan. New York: Showtime Networks, 2014-2016. Television.Google Scholar

  • Perry, Dennis R. “The Recombinant Mystery of Frankenstein: Experiments in Film Adaptation.” The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies. Ed. Thomas Leitch. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 137-53. Print.Google Scholar

  • Poore, Benjamin. “The Transformed Beast: Penny Dreadful, Adaptation, and the Gothic.” Victoriographies 6.1 (2016): 62-81. Edinburgh University Press. Web. 27 August 2017. <http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/vic.2016.0211>CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation. London and New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.Google Scholar

  • Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. 1818, 1831. Boston and Cambridge: Sever, Francis & Co., 1869. Print.Google Scholar

  • Sweet, Matthew. Inventing the Victorians. London: Faber and Faber, 2001. Print.Google Scholar

  • The Frankenstein Chronicles. Prod. Benjamin Ross. London: ITV, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Tropp, Martin. “Re-Creating the Monster. Frankenstein and Film.” Nineteenth-Century Women at the Movies: Adapting Classic Women’s Fiction to Film. Ed. Barbara Lupack. Bowling Green: Popular Press, 1999: 23-77. Print.Google Scholar

  • Whale, James. Dir. Bride of Frankenstein. Universal Pictures, 1935. Film.Google Scholar

  • Yousef, Nancy. “The Monster in a Dark Room: Frankenstein, Feminism and Philosophy.” Modern Language Quarterly 63.2 (June 2002): 197-226. Project Muse. Web. 28 August 2017. <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/22939>Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2017-09-01

Accepted: 2017-11-05

Published Online: 2017-11-24

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Open Cultural Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 232–243, ISSN (Online) 2451-3474, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0021.

Export Citation

© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in