Motherhood in Literature and Culture : Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Europe book cover
1st Edition

Motherhood in Literature and Culture
Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Europe

ISBN 9780367667757
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
296 Pages

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Book Description

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

Susannah Sweetman

2: The Temporalities of Pregnancy: On Contingency, Loss, and Waiting

Victoria Browne

3: An (Un)Familiar Story: Exploring Ultrasound Poems by Contemporary British Women Writers

Emily Blewitt

4: Birthing Tales and Collective Memory in Recent French Fiction

Valerie Worth-Stylianou

5: Natality, Materiality, Maternity: The Sublime and the Grotesque in Contemporary Sculpture

Christine Battersby

Part II: Generation and Relation

6: Erasing Mother, Seeking Father: Biotechnological Interventions, Anxieties over Motherhood, and Donor Offspring’s Narratives of Self

Gabriele Griffin

7: Mums or Dads? Lesbian Mothers in France

Gill Rye

8: The Kinning of the Transnationally Adopted Child in Contemporary Norway

Signe Howell

9: Ties that Bind in Tanja Dückers’s Novel Himmelskörper: History, Memory, and Making Sense of Motherhood in Twenty-First-Century Germany

Katherine Stone

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

Adalgisa Giorgo

Part III: Experience and Affect

11: Publicizing Vulnerability: Motherhood and Affect in Joanna Rajkowska’s Post-2011 Art

Justyna Wierzchowska

12: Present and Obscured: Disabled Women as Mothers in Social Policy

Harriet Clarke

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

Emily Jeremiah

15: Uncertain Mothers: Maternal Ambivalence in Alina Marazzi’s Film Tutto parla di te

Claudia Karagoz

16: 'How to Say Hello to the Sea': Literary Perspectives on Medico-Legal Narratives of Maternal Filicide

Ruth Cain

Part IV: Reflections

17: To Be or Not To Be (a Mother): Telling Academic and Personal Stories of Mothers and Others

Gayle Letherby

18: Last Will and Testament: Potatoes, Love, and Poetry

Ana Luisa Amaral

List of Contributors


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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.