Maternal Impressions: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Literature and Theory

Maternal Impressions: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Literature and Theory

Maternal Impressions: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Literature and Theory

Maternal Impressions: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Literature and Theory

Synopsis

In an unusual combination of reflection, autobiography, theory and criticism, Cristina Mazzoni looks at childbirth and early maternity from the perspective of an academic mother with three young children.

Excerpt

The phrase “maternal impressions” describes the belief that the fetus can be affected by its mother's desires, fears, experiences. In the first chapter of this book I discuss some of the theories underlying this belief and its ramifications in folklore, science, and literature. Used as a title for my book, however, the phrase “maternal impressions” will, I hope, be read more generally as the impressions of a mother: the impressions others have of mothers, the impressions mothers have of others—and of themselves. This is my subject throughout the book. How does a mother impress an other, the fetus (the belief in maternal impressions, Chapter 1)? How does an other, the fetus, impress a mother (the epistemology of quickening, Chapter 2)? What impression does maternity make on the mother's body (the perception of maternal deformity, Chapter 3)? And how impressive is it to become a mother, anyway (the experience of childbirth and paradox, Chapter 4)? Impressions is what I chose to emphasize in the title of this book, as in the titles of its chapters, because impressions, as the above questions attest, can be used to describe the readings I undertake throughout, and because the spatial and temporal indeterminacy of impressions well reflects the uncertainties of maternity and of its discursive elaborations.

Impression is a dual word. An impression can mean a strong effect on one's mind or body, but it can also be a vague awareness. (An impression can also be an imitation: Since my experiences of pregnancy and birth are past, perhaps I am making an impression, an impersonation of the pregnant and birthing woman.) Impressions are dual in terms of space (Are . . .

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