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Mothers Voicing Mothering?

The Representation of Motherhood in the Novels and Short Stories of Marie NDiaye


Pauline Eaton

Mothers and mothering are significant features of contemporary women’s writing in France and mothers are narrators and key protagonists in nearly all Marie NDiaye’s novels and short stories. These mothers rarely strike the reader as attractive personalities and, in their mothering role, are portrayed as inadequate, abusive or even murderous. A pattern of maternal failure is passed on from mother to daughter and the relationship between mothers and daughters is one of rejection and suppression.

This book explores what this negative representation tells us about mothers and about how mothers represent their own mothering to themselves. Close readings of text and intertext are at the centre of the analytic approach, embracing references to existing commentaries on the author and to the psychoanalytic, mythological, religious and literary background against which NDiaye’s mothers demand to be read.

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About the author


Pauline Eaton holds a PhD in Modern French Studies from Birkbeck, University of London, for her work on Marie NDiaye. Combining a career in the UK Civil Service with being a mother to three children, at a time when the status of a mother was little recognised in the workplace, led to her interest in the historical absence from literature of the representation of the maternal experience from the point of view of the mother. The search for the representation of the mother’s voice in literature has been the main focus of her academic research. Recent published articles include ‘Rosie Carpe and the Virgin Mary: Modelling Modern Motherhood?’ in Religion and Gender and ‘Three Strong Grandmothers’ in Studies in Gender and Sexuality.

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