The Deconstruction and Construction of Maternal Desire: 'Yerma' and 'Die Frau Ohne Schatten.'

By Tubert, Silvia | Mosaic (Winnipeg), Summer 1993 | Go to article overview

The Deconstruction and Construction of Maternal Desire: 'Yerma' and 'Die Frau Ohne Schatten.'


Tubert, Silvia, Mosaic (Winnipeg)


One of the principal contributions of psychoanalysis to feminist theory has been to differentiate the concepts of woman, female sexuality and femininity. "Woman" may be defined as a concept which has a double valence, as a corporal reality and as a signifier of the difference between the sexes. "Female sexuality" refers to the position of woman as subject of desire. "Femininity" indicates the site of the woman within the cultural order. The confusion of these concepts may occasion various forms of reductionism, whether biological, psychological or sociological, with often tragic effects. To distinguish these concepts therefore enables us to understand processes of subjective organization or disintegration depicted within literature. The functioning of these concepts, furthermore, reveals the way a character functions not as some displaced "real" person but as a discursively constructed sign.

Central to the originality and radicality of Freud's work is his concept of the inherent effect on the body of language, the symbolic dimension, the order of representation. For Freud, the body as "real" is exterior not only to the psychoanalytic field but also to the psychic apparatus. The Freudian concept of psychic reality posits that there is nothing natural that can be grasped as such by the human being; the natural and the signifier are inseparable. Consequently, when we talk about woman or femininity, we do not refer to entities (natural or social) that have a real existence, but to theoretical constructions. It is a matter of signifiers, rather than effects of anatomical sexual difference or social gender divisions.

Lacan has argued that the "symbolic" order, which is imbricated with the imaginary," presupposes mediation in order to accede to the "real." At the same time, the symbolic serves as a bridge between the subject and the real. Thus the symbolic order establishes the difference between the sexes for us as speaking beings. But when this symbolic difference is assumed by a historic subject for whom the real (the body) constitutes an obstacle, it produces imaginary effects that are translated in the construction of a feminine identity, in definitions of woman and femininity, so that these are always ideologically colored.

If we want to free ourselves of the essentialist concepts that infiltrate theories of femininity, not without political effects, we must analyze how Woman is produced as a category. For it is this process of signifying production (derived from and sustaining the structures of patriarchal power) that locates woman in a subordinate position. Psychoanalysis proposes an explanation of the structuring of the sexuated subject in culture. Sexual difference must be inscribed in the symbolic in order to become more than a mere anatomic difference that in itself signifies nothing. Hence the interest in analyzing different representations of woman and the process that constructs them, always keeping in mind that none of them corresponds to a really existing object. The definition and fixation of the sense of feminine identity, independent of the perspective of the one who realizes herself, constitutes a symbolic violence that tends to allay anxiety about the incomprehensible nature of desire and the multiple forms it may assume.

Within these categories, the representation of woman as mother occupies a privileged site as symptom of the patriarchal system, although the mother is herself excluded as a subject, as Marianne Hirsch has shown in The Mother/Daughter Plot. In order to explore this representation I want to examine two literary texts, Yerma and Die Frau ohne Schatten, whose delineation of the problem of infertility exposes European cultural patterns that may fruitfully be compared to anthropological evidence about other cultures. Through this comparison, I shall try to disengage the symbolic deconstruction and construction of maternity and its effects on women's subjectivity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Deconstruction and Construction of Maternal Desire: 'Yerma' and 'Die Frau Ohne Schatten.'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.