Editor's Statement: WE BELONG DEAD
Chelsea Weathers

“The Monster is, significantly I think, given no name. He is referred to variously as fiend, daemon and monster; though from the time of the book’s appearance it has been a common error to call the Monster ‘Frankenstein.’ This is not really a surprising error, since the relationship of identity and conflict between the Monster and Frankenstein tends to show that the creature is a projection of his creator. The two are complementary yet antithetical figures; for the rational faculty which Frankenstein has lost can be found in the Monster, who is a symbol of the intellect. The Monster is also shown as the perpetrator of evil motivated by revenge for Frankenstein’s neglect of him. And I suggest his conflict with Frankenstein represents the forces which, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, had started to pit reason against imagination, instinct, faith. Mary Shelley equated those rational forces with evil.”   --Muriel Spark, “’Frankenstein’ and ‘The Last Man’” (1951), The Informed Air (New York: New Directions, 2014), 146-147.

“Frankenstein’s monster is monstrous because he lets history too far in, going so far as to embody it instead of merely feeling it…. He certainly emblematizes the passionate attachments to archival materials that were increasingly barred from historicist methodology as the nineteenth century progressed. But he also figures history’s ability to effect shifts in bodily constitution in ways that were increasingly demonized, problematized, or disavowed.”  --Elizabeth Freeman, Time Bends: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 104.


Frankenstein’s monster embodies intellect, imagination, instinct, faith, history, and a passionate attachment to archival materials. These are all also themes of Unfashioned Creatures, two collage works by Margaret Meehan concerned with the complexities of the monstrous. The collages form her efforts to unearth historical contradictions and to investigate the ways in which ignoring history in the name of the rational or the beautiful may result in the perpetration of evil.

Unfashioned Creatures’ two digital collages are not static images. Each component stands on its own as well as interacts with its neighboring elements, the whole collage, and the original image cut from printed media (revealed once the viewer’s mouse hovers over it). Lauren Green and Eric Harvey’s sonic layers also react to the cursor; this imbues the collage with an additional experiential dimension. The viewer’s hand dictates her experience, as the cursor reveals or obscures the work’s passages, guiding the eye across its surface.

Meehan has been making collages that employ vintage photographs, visual materials culled from contemporary culture and images of her own ceramics over the past several years. Her interview in this issue elaborates on her interest in overlapping conventional beauty with monstrosity; she aims to investigate how both might coexist within the same person and to consider the relationship between outward appearance and the sense of an internal self. Such was the case with Frankenstein’s monster, by his own account born a benevolent and empathic creature who, through the treatment he received by humans—shocked and disgusted by his outward appearance—found himself driven to murder and vengeance. Coco Chanel, whose brand relied on her reputation as an arbiter of sophistication and beauty, exists now in contradiction to her Nazi sympathies. The inability to reconcile inside and out, good and evil, is manifest in Unfashioned Creatures, which places in close physical proximity images of Chanel runway models, Frankenstein’s monster and suspected Nazi sympathizers, forcing seeming contradictions into an uneasy dialogue.

These concepts provided a framework for WE BELONG DEAD’s other contents. Dan Chelotti and Kathryn Scanlan’s writings explore the power of memories. Both writers portray identity as past events and material details sutured together, grafted onto the present moment.

Each of Chelotti’s three poems represents a strategy for inhabiting a memory through describing it. “The Meadow Beyond the Trees” excavates a series of recollections, mining their every detail in an effort to relive them—ultimately a futile exercise—and catapulting them into an almost alchemical space. Objects transform into desire, ecstasy and loneliness.

Scanlan, like Meehan, stitches appropriated materials together to evoke loss. Lists appear in her prose collage Stories Read from the Rocks: one chronicles the dead; others list lost teeth, gifts given, and varied goods cryptically described. These inventories accompany accounts of sickness and accidents, but none is traumatic in tone. Lists rarely are, and the narrative anecdotes are too brief to wound. Scanlan’s source materials seem highly personal, and yet, stripped of their materiality and decontextualized, they evoke any number of scenarios and time periods.

This online project concludes with two mirror-stitched excerpts from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and John Gardner’s Grendel (1971). Frankenstein’s monster and Grendel, the monster from Beowulf, both resort to violence after rejection by their human counterparts. Frankenstein, as he recounts his process of observing and becoming emotionally attached to a family living in a cottage in the woods, only to confront them and be driven away by their disgust, demands of Dr. Frankenstein the only thing that he believes will abate his misery: a female monster partner. Grendel too laments that he has no friend—nobody to talk to or to share his life. The desperation and loneliness both monsters feel drives them to seek revenge. They are extreme examples of how one’s environment can affect identity, their ill treatment made manifest in their murderous acts.

All the components of WE BELONG DEAD meditate on how we consume materials from our pasts, and how those materials might consume us and shape our presents and futures. To remember the past is not to relive it; a repetition is not a return.[1] Returning to the past may be impossible, but if we cleave ourselves wholly from it, we deny a potential to embody our histories, and to learn from them.


[1] “...what I have affirmed a first time, I can once again affirm, without repeating it, for then what I affirm is the affirmation, not its contingency: I affirm the first encounter in its difference, I desire its return, not its repetition. I say to the other (old or new): Let us begin again.” Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 24.