Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Maternal Subjectivity
By Alison Stone
Routledge – 2012 – 194 pages
In this book, Alison Stone develops a feminist approach to maternal subjectivity. Stone argues that in the West the self has often been understood in opposition to the maternal body, so that one must separate oneself from the mother and maternal care-givers on whom one depended in childhood to become a self or, in modernity, an autonomous subject. These assumptions make it difficult to be a mother and a subject, an autonomous creator of meaning. Insofar as mothers nonetheless strive to regain their subjectivity when their motherhood seems to have compromised it, theirs cannot be the usual kind of subjectivity premised on separation from the maternal body. Mothers are subjects of a new kind, who generate meanings and acquire agency from their position of re-immersion in the realm of maternal body relations, of bodily intimacy and dependency. Thus Stone interprets maternal subjectivity as a specific form of subjectivity that is continuous with the maternal body. Stone analyzes this form of subjectivity in terms of how the mother typically reproduces with her child her history of bodily relations with her own mother, leading to a distinctive maternal and cyclical form of lived time.
"This is a brave and thought-provoking analysis by a respected feminist philosopher of the ways our culture (and psychoanalysis in particular) distorts the story so as to render the mother’s subjectivity either silent or inaudible." – Christine Battersby, University of Warwick, UK
"This book is a welcome and provocative contribution to feminist and psychoanalytical theories of motherhood and philosophical conceptions of subjectivity. […] By providing a feminist articulation of maternal subjectivity, Stone's book represents an important intervention into all three disciplines: psychoanalysis, feminism, and philosophy. […] The book should be of great interest not only to feminist psychoanalysis but also to anyone concerned with affective, embodied, and relational models of subjectivity." --Ewa Ziarek in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Stone consistently problematizes the idea, dominant in western thought, that self has to be separated from mother. […] Stone’s use of examples from art and literature to illustrate her argument […] brings clarity and accessibility to her analysis. Stone’s philosophical approach is highly relevant for feminist psychology" --Wendy Hollway in Feminism and Psychology
"Stone’s work gives a strong philosophical response to a problem haunting many new mothers. In the process, she offers an intellectually rigorous and innovative approach to the question of maternal subjectivity and its nature. Those engaged in feminist psychoanalysis will no doubt encounter stimulating hypotheses and new paths for further investigation." --Allison B. Wolf in Feminism and Philosophy
Acknowledgements Introduction: Maternity Between Body and Subjectivity 1. From Mothering to Maternal Experience 2. Parricide and Matricide 3. Maternal Space 4. Re-Assessing Mother-Daughter Relationships 5. Ambivalence and the Dynamics of Mothering a Daughter 6. Maternal Time 7. Maternal Loss. References. Index
Alison Stone is Reader in European Philosophy at Lancaster University. She is the author of Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegel's Philosophy (SUNY Press, 2004), Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and An Introduction to Feminist Philosophy (Polity Press, 2007).