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Voicing Voluntary Childlessness

Narratives of Non-Mothering in French


Natalie Edwards

The decision to reject motherhood is the subject of several key works of literature in French since the new millennium. This book looks at first-person accounts of voluntary childlessness by women writing in French. The book explores how women narrate their decision not to mother, the issues that they face in doing so and the narrative techniques that they employ to justify their stories. It asks how these authors challenge stereotypes of the childless woman by claiming their own identity in narrative, publicly proclaiming their right to choose and writing a femininity that is not connected to motherhood.
Using feminist, sociological and psychoanalytic theories to interrogate non-mothering, this work is the first book-length study of narratives that counter this long-standing taboo. It brings together authors who stake out a new terrain, creating a textual space in which to take ownership of their childlessness and call for new understandings of female identity beyond maternity.
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This book is the result of a ten-year labour and many individuals have assisted in its maturation. I hope that they have all felt my gratitude.

This book was conceived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, my home for seven years and the fabled birthplace of the babyccino and the yummy mummy. I am grateful to the neighbourhood and its inhabitants for inspiration, encouragement and an inexhaustible supply of material. I should like to thank my closest colleagues while in New York, Eloïse Brezault and Anne Schotter, for their camaraderie and support, both as I began the project and as I transitioned from one hemisphere to another.

The writing of this book began in earnest as I moved to Australia and found a warm welcome in my new home. Jean Fornasiero and John West-Sooby made an enormous difference in my life by employing me at the University of Adelaide. Their generous, thoughtful mentoring has been a constant source of support in the years since. Peter Poiana has been a model of kindness since my first day on campus and Ben McCann’s infectious enthusiasm and friendship always lift my spirits. Amy Hubbell’s companionship has been very precious to me, both in the US and in our new home. I thank the University of Adelaide for the research leave in which this book was completed and the Faculty of Arts for the research grants that enabled the preliminary field trips. Also on an Australian theme, I thank...

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