Focusing on their conception and use of the notion of the mother, Modernism, Self-Creation, and the Maternal proposes a new interpretation of literature by modernist authors like Rousseau, Baudelaire, Poe, Rimbaud, Rilke, Joyce, and Beckett. Seen through this maternal relation, their writing appears as the product of an "anxiety" rising not from paternal influence, but from the violence done to their mother in their attempts at self-creation through writing. In order to bring to light this modernist violence, this study analyzes these authors in tandem with Derrida’s work on the gender-specific violence of the Western philosophical and literary tradition. The book demonstrates how these writer-sons wrote their works in a constant crisis vis-à-vis the mother’s body as site of both origin and dissolution. It proves how, if modernism was first established as a patrilineal heritage, it was ultimately written on the bodies of women and mothers, confusing them in order to appropriate their generative traits.
James Martell is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages at Lyon College. He is the co-editor—together with Arka Chattopadhyay—of Samuel Beckett and the Encounter of Philosophy and Literature (Roman Books, 2013), and—together with Fernanda Negrete—of the special issue of the bilingual journal Samuel Beckett: Today/Aujourd’hui titled, "Beckett beyond Words" (2018). He has published articles on Derrida, Deleuze, Beckett, and the cinema of Béla Tarr.