1st Edition

Imagining Motherhood in the Twenty-First Century

Edited By Valerie Heffernan, Gay Wilgus Copyright 2021
    160 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    160 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Images, representations and constructions of mothers have historically shaped and continue to shape the way we imagine the institution of motherhood and the experience of mothering. The various contributions included in this volume consider the diversity of maternal images and narratives that circulate in literature, the arts and popular culture and analyse how they reflect on and influence the cultural meaning of motherhood in the contemporary era. Mindful of the fact that the images of motherhood that we see in popular media, on television, and in literature are not mere background noise to our daily lives, the various chapters explore how they influence our understanding of what it means to be a mother, affect our expectations of motherhood and of mothers, frame our experience of mothering, and even inform our reproductive decisions.

    Including insights from media studies, cultural studies, literary studies, and the performing and visual arts, this book explores how engaging with diverse representations of mothers and mothering contributes to a broader and deeper interdisciplinary understanding of how motherhood is constructed in our time.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the journal Women: A Cultural Review.

    Introduction: Imagining Motherhood in the Twenty-First Century — Images, Representations, Constructions

    Valerie Heffernan and Gay Wilgus

    1. Situating Single Mothers through Values-Based Cartooning

    Penelope Mendonça

    2. Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Motherhood: Crafting Radical Narratives and Representing Social Change through Cultural Representations

    Elizabeth Reed

    3. Mothering across Languages and Cultures in Ying Chen's Letters to Her Children

    Eglė Kačkutė

    4. On the Margins of Motherhood: Choosing to Be Child-Free in Lucie Joubert’s L’Envers du landau (2010)

    Julie Rodgers

    5. Post-Feminist Fatherhood and the Marginalization of the Mother in Cormac McCarthy's The Road

    Berit Åström

    6. Rethinking Constructs of Maternity in the Novels of Elena Ferrante and Alice Sebold

    Katrin Wehling-Giorgi

    7. Mending the Torn Fragments of a Relationship: An Interview with Sarah Strong

    Valerie Heffernan


    Valerie Heffernan is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Her research interests encompass 20th and 21st century literature and cultural studies. Her current research focuses on the representation of mothers, motherhood and mothering in contemporary culture.

    Gay Wilgus is Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Early Childhood Education at the City College of New York, The City University of New York. Her recent research has focused on motherhood, carework, and early childhood teacher preparation in Spain, France, Belgium and Ireland.