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Meres Fatales: Maternal Guilt in the Noir Crime Novel.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1999
JournalModern Fiction Studies
Journal number2
Volume45
Number of pages34
Pages369-402
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

We argue in this article that the coupling of "noir" conventions with an interest in maternal subjectivity has characterised the work of a number of female crime writers. Recent theories of maternal subjectivities (developed, for example, in the work of Jessica Benjamin, Elaine Tuttle Hansen, Marianne Hirsch, Brenda O. Daly and Maureen T. Reddy) have departed from the mother-blaming psychoanalytic emphasis of many earlier feminist critics, arguing instead the importance of recuperating the mother's perspective and voice, of disrupting "narratives that silence mothers" and allowing the maternal figure to be humanised. We compare male and female representations of "the guilt of the mother" in a range of crime fiction published from the 1940s to the present, and to analyse some of the ways in which an increasing interest in reclaiming the subjectivity of the mother has been reflected in noir crime novels written by women.