Dr. Jennifer Airey, Associate Professor of English here at TU and author of The Politics of Rape: Sexual Atrocity, Propaganda Wars, and the Restoration Stage, is currently writing a new book on the religious life of 19th century author Mary Shelley.
The book, now titled Religion Around Mary Shelley, will be one in a series of books by other authors exploring the religious lives of central figures in history and how their personal religion fit into the broader realm of the centuries in which they lived.
Other figures that are being written about include Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare and Billie Holiday.
While her first book was fueled by her own initiation, Religion Around Mary Shelley came into Airey’s life accidentally. She spoke about Shelley’s writing style at a conference in 2014 called “Leading Culture Forward” at the University of Richmond and was approached by a publishing editor who asked her to write the book. She took the offer and started shaping the work out.
Mary Shelley is perhaps best known for her 1818 novel Frankenstein, but Airey wants to focus on a more collective array of Shelley’s works, saying “She wrote six other novels, two plays, many short stories and biography pieces to encyclopedias. Most of her writing happened after her husband’s death. I want to focus on those.”
The book will explore three phases of Shelley’s writing. Airey conducted her research for the book at the Harvard and TU libraries, and also had the opportunity to work at the Chawton House Library for the summer. This library is a renowned place of research into early women’s writing from 1600 to 1830. Airey worked in the very manor and stables that were once owned by Jane Austen’s brother. This is not only a literature fan’s dream, but a prime location to conduct research into a 19th century female writer.
Airey’s previous book was published in 2012 and is “the first full-length study of representations of sexual violence in Restoration theater and political culture.” While Airey wanted to step away from discussing sexual violence again in Religion Around Mary Shelley, she found this hard to do. Since Shelley writes of sexual violence in her pieces, and since it seems to be a recurring theme throughout literary history up to today, Airey treats it in a “similar way” as she did in her previous book.
Religion Around Mary Shelley is due to come out in August 2017.