The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction

The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction

The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction

The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction

Synopsis

This book grows out of a longstanding fascination with the uncanny status of the mother in literature, philosophy,
psychoanalysis, film, and photography. The mother haunts Freud's writings on art and literature, emerges as an obscure stumbling block in his metapsychological accounts of the psyche, and ultimately undermines his patriarchal
accounts of the Oedipal complex as a foundation for human culture. The figure of the mother becomes associated with some of psychoanalysis's most unruly and enigmatic concepts (the uncanny, anxiety, the primal scene, the crypt, and magical thinking). Read in relation to deconstructive approaches to the work of mourning, this book shows how the maternal function challenges traditional psychoanalytic models of the subject, troubles existing systems of representation, and provides a fertile source for nonmimetic, nonlinear conceptions of time and space.

The readings in this book examine the uncanny properties of the maternal function in psychoanalysis, technology, and literature in order to show that the event of birth is radically unthinkable and often becomes expressed through uncontrollable repetitions that exceed the bounds of any subject. The maternal body often serves as an unacknowledged reference point for modern media technologies such as photography and the telephone, which attempt to mimic its reproductive properties. To the extent that these technologies aim to usurp the maternal function, they are often deployed as a means of regulating or warding off anxieties that are provoked by the experience of loss that real separation from the mother invariably demands. As the incarnation of our first relation to the strange exile of language, the mother is inherently a literary figure, whose primal presence in literary texts opens us up to the
unspeakable relation to our own birth and, in so doing, helps us give birth to new and fantasmatic images of futures that might otherwise have remained unimaginable.

Excerpt

THE MATERNAL FUNCTION

This book grows out of a long-standing fascination with the uncanny status of the mother in literature, psychoanalysis, philosophy, film, and photography. Sigmund Freud famously derives the psychoanalytic notion of the uncanny (the disturbing convergence of what is most familiar and most strange) from the etymology of the German word “Unheimlich” (or “unhomelike”) and associates this figure with the passage through the mother’s body in the event of being born. This book explores the meanings (psychic, cultural, political, philosophical, and literary) that become attached to the maternal body as it emerges as an uncanny figure for the primal (and perhaps even radically unthinkable) relation to our own birth. This book aims to show that the uncanny maternal body is itself a conceptual matrix that demands to be read.

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