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  • 2019alazazphd

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From the feminine to the maternal: elusive maternal subjectivities and the rejection of motherhood in contemporary American fiction

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Hanan Alazaz
Publication date2019
Number of pages250
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis is an exploration of representations that revise perceptions of motherhood and gender through the concept of rejection of traditional maternal ideals in American novels written between the 1970s and early 21st century. Themes of voluntary childlessness, postpartum depression, child abuse and infanticide are explored through representations that narrate alternative and nuanced perceptions of motherhood and gender. Shifts in the perspective of representative maternal characters revise perceptions of motherhood and disrupt the discourse structuring the maternal ideal. Theorized by Lisa Baraitser in Maternal Encounters: The Ethics of Interruption (2008), the maternal
ideal is deconstructed through the concept of interruption to the mother’s perception of herself as a maternal subject. Concepts like maternal ambivalence, revealed through the portrayal of interrupted transformation into the maternal subject, revise the discourse about the potential mother in every female which is questioned in texts like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) and Adrianne Rich’s Of Woman Born (1976).
Interrupted transformation both as a blocked transformation into the maternal
subject or a reversed transformation into the maternal subject, produces forms of writing subjectivity outside the boundaries of the maternal ideal. Interruption in that sense gives way to a flow of an alternative discourse about motherhood, reproduction and gender. The interrupted transformation into the maternal subject reflects issues of stigmatized and marginalized forms of motherhood revealed in various genres and how it shapes the maternal experience in the United States. Interruption is explored as a form of representing perceptions of monstrous motherhood, and its impact on the rejection of maternal ideals to investigate the impact of a racialized motherhood in shaping of African-American culture.