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Title: Mothering in the third person : the absent mother of French and English cinema, 1959-1979
Author: Powell, M. L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 7410
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the tensions between the cultural construction of motherhood as a discourse and the complex subjectivities of individuals who mother, through analysing representations of mothers in French and English cinema. It begins with a theoretical background on discourses of motherhood in European thought. Drawing together feminist writing on motherhood with Lee Edelman’s theory of the Child, I argue that overzealous imaginations of the Child as the ideal cultural subject are used as grounds to legitimise the erasure of mothers as individual subjects. From here, I examine the extent to which this construction of the child-as-subject leads to representations of mothers in film that identify implicitly with the perspective of the child, and ask whether this engenders an absence of mothering subjects. I explore this question in relation to key gender-related issues that are thematised in English and French film in the 1960s and 1970s. Firstly, I look at gendered commentaries on consumer culture in French new wave and English ‘kitchen sink’ films and argue that masculinised perspectives in these narratives are particularly critical towards the mother in the home as a symbol of domestic objectification. Secondly, I consider representations of unplanned pregnancy and abortion in these films. Taking into account the historical context of public debate in France and England on the decriminalisation of abortion, I suggest that these representations contain important reflections on the meaning of motherhood and the tension between the subjectivities of maternal women and imagined children. I move on from this to a final section exploring films that pose a challenge to traditional ideologies of motherhood, either through the representation of marginalised mothering identities or through critical feminist filmmaking practice. I therefore ultimately argue how film can be used not only to consolidate but to deconstruct the absence of mothering subjectivities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available