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The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction by Elissa Marder

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


The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction by Elissa Marder

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.


In this intellectually luxuriant book Elissa Marder analyzes a whole series of effects that come into play by virtue of our being 'not present
at, yet haunted by, constantly mourning our birth. But her coup de genie is to conclude thereby that the relation to birth, and indeed the constitution of the maternal body, is prosthetic, even technological: we cannot not return to the birth that stays with us throughout our life

, and we cannot not set about producing a variety of mechanical reproductions of the experience. Marder explores those reproductions-- from Cixous to Racine and Mary Shelley, from Derrida to Blade Runner, infanticide and Abu Ghraib--with an extraordinarily uncanny set of intellectual and academic antennae, producing ingenious insights from a minutely attentive reading practice. -- -David Wills * University at Albany-SUNY * Marder's writing is beautiful and compelling. She deftly moves between philosophy, literature, film and popular culture to create novel interpretations of maternity, sex and death. -- -Kelly Oliver * Vanderbilt University * The protracted genesis of Marder's work attests to the rigour of the critical concepts developed, as well as the breadth and richness of analysis that readers can find advanced therein. * The British Society for Literature and Science *

About the Author

Elissa Marder is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Emory University and Distinguished International Faculty Fellow at the London Graduate School. Her most recent book is Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert).

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Book Info

Publication date

15th January 2012


Elissa Marder

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Fordham University Press


320 pages


Literary theory
Sociology: family & relationships



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