There is no doubt about Mary Shelley´s The Last Man being one of the most politically charged works in the Romantic period. However, traditional criticism has pictured Shelley as a mere observant and supporter of her husband P.B. Shelley and his career as one of the most representative Romantic poets. As a result, the main critical visions on this novel have been based on biographical readings of the novel, narrowing down a wide range of political interpretations to a less than satisfactory ¨roman a clef¨ definition.
My aim in the first part of my research project is not only to validate Shelley’s political agenda in “The Last Man”, but also to try to understand the reasons behind her undermining of most political ideologies present in her time, a fact represented by the death of almost all main characters in her novel. By narrating the slow extinction of the race, Shelley hardly conceals her skepticism towards the failure of Romantic political ideas.
In the second part of my research, I will extrapolate my conclusions to a different novel, ¨El mecanoscrit del segon origen¨ a Catalan post-apocalyptic novel written in 1974 by Manuel de Pedrolo. The objective of this case study is to try to capture the essence of the last man motif, focusing on deconstruction of political ideologies as a possible inherent characteristic of this figure. My choice of Pedrolo as the second author in this study is justified with the key moment in Spanish history in which the novel was written, at the very beginning of the country’s transition to democracy, and the controversial critical neglect of this important Catalan literary figure.