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Mothers Voicing Mothering?

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

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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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Mothers and mothering are significant features of contemporary women’s writing in France and mothers serve as 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, they 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 their daughters is one of rejection and suppression.

This book seeks not to redeem NDiaye’s mothers but to explore what this negative representation tells us about mothers and about how mothers represent their own mothering to themselves, especially. Close readings of text and intertext are at the centre of the analytic approach, embracing references to a range of existing commentaries on the author and to the psychoanalytic, mythological, religious and literary background against which her novels in general, and especially her mothers, demand to be read.

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