Beatrice Turner, “‘[We] had not the ties of blood to unite us’: Family Genius and Family Blood in William Godwin Jr.’s Transfusion” (pp. 457–484)
This essay recuperates Transfusion; or, the Orphans of Unwalden (1835), the posthumously published and forgotten novel of William Godwin’s only son, William Godwin Jr. It argues that Godwin Jr.’s absence from Godwin-Shelley circle scholarship is a critical oversight given the complex personal and intellectual relationship between writing and family, which, as numerous critics have noted, defines this circle of authors. Attention to Transfusion reveals a Gothic novel expressly concerned with articulating a biological idea of the family, dramatizing the fatal consequences of “porous” family arrangements that transgress the absolute boundaries erected by blood. Godwin Jr. mobilizes early-nineteenth-century proto-evolutionary discourses and biomedical theories in order to reject the viability of socially constructed or affective familial structures, reflecting cultural anxieties about how to define the family and, ultimately, the species. However, the novel’s deterministic account of family relations appears also directly to oppose the contractual family ideal that characterized both how Godwin Sr. imagined the family and, to a lesser extent, how the Godwin-Shelley family constituted itself. I argue that Transfusion speaks directly to Godwin Jr.’s “outsider” position in the family, interrogating how the Godwin-Shelley family imagines itself and its family “canon,” and opens up opportunities for significant further work on this writing family.
- William Godwin Jr.
- Godwin-Shelley circle
- Gothic literature
- science and medicine in literature
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