Motherhood in Literature and Culture
Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Europe
Motherhood remains a complex and contested issue in feminist research as well as public discussion. This interdisciplinary volume explores cultural representations of motherhood in various contemporary European contexts, including France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and the UK, and it considers how such representations affect the ways in which different individuals and groups negotiate motherhood as both institution and lived experience. It has a particular focus on literature, but it also includes essays that examine representations of motherhood in philosophy, art, social policy, and film. The book’s driving contention is that, through intersecting with other fields and disciplines, literature and the study of literature have an important role to play in nuancing dialogues around motherhood, by offering challenging insights and imaginative responses to complex problems and experiences. This is demonstrated throughout the volume, which covers a range of topics including: discursive and visual depictions of pregnancy and birth; the impact of new reproductive technologies on changing family configurations; the relationship between mothering and citizenship; the shaping of policy imperatives regarding mothering and disability; and the difficult realities of miscarriage, child death, violence, and infanticide. The collection expands and complicates hegemonic notions of motherhood, as the authors map and analyse shifting conceptions of maternal subjectivity and embodiment, explore some of the constraining and/or enabling contexts in which mothering takes place, and ask searching questions about what it means to be a ‘mother’ in Europe today. It will be of interest not only to those working in gender, women’s and feminist studies, but also to scholars in literary and cultural studies, and those researching in sociology, criminology, politics, psychology, medical ethics, midwifery, and related fields.
Table of Contents
Foreword, Lisa Baraitser
Introduction: Motherhood in Literature and Culture
Gill Rye, Victoria Browne, Adalgisa Giorgio, Emily Jeremiah, and Abigail Lee Six
Part I: Pregnancy and Birth
1: Birth Fear and the Subjugation of Women’s Strength: Towards a Broader Conceptualization of Femininity in Birth
2: The Temporalities of Pregnancy: On Contingency, Loss, and Waiting
3: An (Un)Familiar Story: Exploring Ultrasound Poems by Contemporary British Women Writers
4: Birthing Tales and Collective Memory in Recent French Fiction
5: Natality, Materiality, Maternity: The Sublime and the Grotesque in Contemporary Sculpture
Part II: Generation and Relation
6: Erasing Mother, Seeking Father: Biotechnological Interventions, Anxieties over Motherhood, and Donor Offspring’s Narratives of Self
7: Mums or Dads? Lesbian Mothers in France
8: The Kinning of the Transnationally Adopted Child in Contemporary Norway
9: Ties that Bind in Tanja Dückers’s Novel Himmelskörper: History, Memory, and Making Sense of Motherhood in Twenty-First-Century Germany
10: Matrixial Creativity and the Wit(h)nessing of Trauma: Reconnecting Mothers and Daughters in Marosia Castaldi’s Novel Dentro le mie mani le tue: Tetralogia di Nightwater
Part III: Experience and Affect
11: Publicizing Vulnerability: Motherhood and Affect in Joanna Rajkowska’s Post-2011 Art
12: Present and Obscured: Disabled Women as Mothers in Social Policy
13: Nuria C. Botey’s Short Story 'Viviendo con el tío Roy': Motherhood and Risk Assessment under Duress
Abigail Lee Six
14: Broken Nights, Shattered Selves: Maternal Ambivalence and the Ethics of Interruption in Sarah Moss’s Novel Night Waking
15: Uncertain Mothers: Maternal Ambivalence in Alina Marazzi’s Film Tutto parla di te
16: 'How to Say Hello to the Sea': Literary Perspectives on Medico-Legal Narratives of Maternal Filicide
Part IV: Reflections
17: To Be or Not To Be (a Mother): Telling Academic and Personal Stories of Mothers and Others
18: Last Will and Testament: Potatoes, Love, and Poetry
Ana Luisa Amaral
List of Contributors
Gill Rye is Professor Emerita at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London, UK.
Victoria Browne is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Oxford Brookes University, UK.
Adalgisa Giorgio is Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies in the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies of the University of Bath, UK.
Emily Jeremiah is Senior Lecturer in German and Gender Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
Abigail Lee Six is Professor of Spanish at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.