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Title: Troubling maternity : mothering, agency and ethics in women's writing in German of the 1970s and 1980s
Author: Jeremiah, E. R.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2001
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My thesis develops the idea of a 'maternal performativity', harnessing the work of Judith Butler and numerous other feminist theorists, to offer new ways of looking at 1970s and 1980s literary texts by ten German-speaking women writers. In my introduction, I outline previous feminist approaches to mothering, and argue that as yet, maternal agency has not been adequately theorized. The project of theorizing maternal agency is, I contend, vitally important, given the traditional view in Western culture of the mother as passive. Butler's notion of performativity can assist in his project, I suggest. I argue for the performative conception of both mothering and of literature, and link both of these to the issue of ethics, here understood as involving embodiment, relationality and discursive challenge. To different extents, all of the texts examined here depict mother as marginal, abject or insane, thus performatively demonstrating the cultural operations of exclusion, and the need for a maternal agency to be developed and enacted. I am, then, performatively reading these texts as performatively highlighting the need for a maternal performativity, as it is implicated and manifested the issues of, respectively, community, corporeality, the mother-child relationship, the family, and discursive production. In my conclusion, I look further at the question of a maternal writing and explore the ethics of literary reading and knowledge production. I suggest that in the light of the developing fields of new reproductive technologies and genetics, it is imperative that we develop new understanding of corporeality, community and care, a task to which my thesis aspires to contribute.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available