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

By Elissa Marder | Go to book overview

ONE
The Sex of Death and the Maternal Crypt

I wish her to be buried in her wedding dress, with white shoes, and a wreath.
Her hair is to be spread about her shoulders. Three coffins, one oak, one
mahogany, one of lead.

—FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

When the face without face, name without name, of the mother returns, in
the end, one has what I called in Glas the logic of obsequence. The mother
buries all her own. She assists whoever calls herself her mother, and follows
all burials.

— JACQUES DERRIDA, The Post Card: From Socrates
to Freud and Beyond


MOURNING AND FEMININITY

“Mourning women.” The phrase reverberates and conjures up the many names of women who have become known to us (in myth, literature, history, philosophy) by their celebrated acts of mourning. “Andromache, je pense à vous!” “Andromache, I think of you,” writes Baudelaire in the opening lines of “The Swan.”1 Or perhaps one thinks first and foremost of Antigone, philosophy’s darling token feminine figure and arguably the most scrutinized and theorized mourner in the history of Western philosophy.2 Or of Electra, who mourns her father by plotting to murder her mother.3 Or of Niobe, who weeps eternally over the loss of her dead children: the seven sons and seven daughters murdered by a god as punishment for her excessive maternal pride.4 The history of Western culture is saturated, inundated, drenched with the tears of mourning women. And, with very few exceptions (notably mothers who sometimes mourn for daughters), the most famous

-19-

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