Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic

By Julie Kipp | Go to book overview

Postscript

Pregnancy seems to be experienced as the radical ordeal of the splitting
of the subject: redoubling up of the body, separation and coexistence
of the self and of an other, of nature and consciousness, of physiology
and speech. This fundamental challenge to identity is then accom-
panied by a fantasy of totality – narcissistic completeness – a sort of
instituted, socialized, natural psychosis. The arrival of the child, on
the other hand, leads the mother into the labyrinths of an experience
that, without the child, she would only rarely encounter: love for an
other. Not for herself, nor for an identical human being, and still less
for another person with whom “I” fuse (love or sexual passion). But
the slow, difficult, and delightful apprenticeship in attentiveness, gen-
tleness, forgetting oneself. The ability to succeed in this path without
masochism and without annihilating one’s affective, intellectual, and
professional personality – such would seem to be the stakes to be won
through guiltless maternity.

Julia Kristeva, “Women’s Time”1

You marvel at the age, at the ferment of its gigantic power, at its violent
convulsions, and don’t know what new births to expect.

Friedrich Schlegel, Ideas 52

Personal as well as professional interests informed this project from the outset. Indeed, I believe that this monograph began to germinate long before I found a vehicle through which to convey my thoughts about historical shifts in the “invention of maternity,” to adopt Susan Greenfield’s and Carol Barash’s terms.3 My first pregnancies, in the early eighties, came to fruition during a period when public attitudes about the period of gestation were undergoing rapid changes. I was “policed” in ways that my mother had not been: those things that I put into my body seemed to be matters of widespread concern, and, while I remain grateful for the technological advances that linked smoking to low birth weights and the consumption of alcohol or caffeine to birth defects and other neonatal disorders, I was disarmed somewhat by the public scrutiny of this most private of experiences.

-183-

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