Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, English and Literary Arts

First Advisor

Eleanor McNees


Literature, Horror, Frankenstein, The Last Man, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau


This dissertation examines Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and The Last Man (1826), and H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) and The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) as examples of nineteenth-century horror and apocalypse literature. Specifically, I argue that these four novels perform as what Kenneth Burke calls “equipment for living”—that is, literary works that interrogate and explore the sociocultural crises concurrent with their production. Mary Shelley wrote her novels immediately after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, and her works reflect and respond to these crises. H. G. Wells, a biologist, wrote his novels as arguments for the threat of evolutionary degeneration, a prevalent concern at the end of the century. I contextualize these four novels by examining them alongside some of the non-fiction discourse that both inform, and are informed by, Shelley’s and Wells’s fiction.

Drawing on the socio-rhetorical theories of Kenneth Burke and the historiography of Hayden White, I perform sociological, historical, and rhetorical criticism in order codify the literature of Shelley and Wells as “strategies” for how we cope with our perceived view of the world and our function within it (109). In other words, my work aims at a conception of nineteenth-century horror and apocalypse literature as a social force. The fictional works of Shelley and Wells act as artifacts in an almost ritualized sense, in that they are instrumental in helping their readers order their existence during crises.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. This work may only be accessed by members of the University of Denver community. The work is provided by permission of the author for individual research purposes only and may not be further copied or distributed. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Catherine R. Alber


Received from author

File Format




File Size

295 pgs