Birth Passages: Maternity and Nostalgia, Antiquity to Shakespeare

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Cornell University Press, 2001 - Family & Relationships - 266 pages
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Birth Passages offers a provocative and eloquent challenge to the nostalgia for the maternal, sometimes influenced by classic Freudian theory, which pervades many discourses. Theresa M. Krier suggests an alternative to the common characterizations of "the maternal" as a force inspiring both desire and dread, a force that must be repressed if subjectivity and culture are to be established. Instead, drawing on the work of Melanie Klein, D. W. Winnicott, and Luce Irigaray, Krier seeks to establish a new model of the relationship between mother and infant, one in which birth is seen not as the tragic ending to the prenatal union but rather as the child's claiming both distance from and proximity to this parent. Krier's insightful readings of poetic works from antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance show these texts in opposition to their cultures' insistent nostalgia for the maternal. Their authors, she maintains, recognize such longing as a symptom of a glamorous but false and disabling fantasy. In her analysis of the Song of Songs, Lucretius's De rerum natura, Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, Spenser's Amoretti and Faerie Queene, and Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost and The Winter's Tale, Krier details how the writings represent the intersubjective nature of birth.

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About the author (2001)

Krier is associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.

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