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Hirsch 81 Marianne Hirsch Maternal Anger: Silent Themes and 'Meaningful Digressions' in Psychoanalytic Feminism In a recent issue of Critical Inquiry entitled The Trial(s) of Psychoanalysis, Jane Gallop advances an intriguing figure for the relationship between feminism and psychoanalysis. Since we tend always to speak of the influence psychoanalysis has had on feminism, she suggests that we can see psychoanalysis as the analysand—the one who does the talking—and feminism as the analyst—always listening.' In the position of analyst, feminism can then decipher and interpret what psychoanalysis, for all its talking, has left out, what it has been unable to say. She quotes the editors of The (M)Other Tongue, the collection of essays her paper analyzes, who begin to imagine another story, not what psychoanalysis has been saying to feminism, but what it could not say, and what feminism must now say to psychoanalysis: "Psychoanalysis, whether it posits in the beginning maternal presence or absence, has yet to develop a story of the mother as other than the object of the infant's desire."2 My own essay starts with this particular repression of psychoanalytic discourse—the story of maternal subjectivity, as feminism (or, preferably, as women) might tell it. In so doing, however, I find that I need to place (psychoanalytic) feminism itselfin the position of analysand and to look at the stories it cannot tell. At issue is the process of revision—at this moment , not the revision of psychoanalysis from the perspective of feminism, but the revision of feminism from the perspective of other "others," women of color and the historical/political awareness they bring to a feminism which is situated in a psychoanalytic framework. The problem I see in Jane Gallop's figure and in the editor's introduction, is their singular nouns—"the mother" and "feminism"—which in themselves have the effect of repressing "other" stories which cannot therefore be heard. I do not want to give the impression that in placing feminism in the place of analysand, I myself take on the role of analyst—on the contrary , what I propose to do here is to revise my own reading of one particular short text, Alice Walker's essay "One Child of One's Own," posing the question that a psychoanalytic frame of reference has heretofore prevented me from asking.3 I first came to Walker's essay in an effort to define the contours of maternal subjectivity, to find texts written in a maternal voice. More specifically I searched for texts voicing maternal anger which I perceived 82 the minnesota review as a particularly pointed assertion and articulation of subjectivity. Anger, Marilyn Frye has said, is an "instrument of cartography."4 To be angry is to claim a place, to assert a right to expression and to discourse, a right to intelligibility. "By determining where, with whom, about what and in what circumstances one can get angry..., one can map others' concepts of who and what one is" (p. 94). Using Frye's definition, I looked at cultural representations of angry mothers and at mothers' own narratives of their experiences with anger. In particular, I focused on the prevailing taboos against mothers' expression of anger at their children. I concluded that the discourse of psychoanalysis and even of psychoanalytic feminism is permeated with desires for maternal approval and with fears of maternal power. It thereby colludes in silencing and repressing any form of maternal anger which is not restricted to the protection of children but is directed at them and is therefore perceived as profoundly threatening and dangerous even by mothers themselves. Alice Walker's "One Child of One's Own" provided an especially interesting corroboration of my point. The essay is written in the voice of a young black mother who traces her (pilgrim's) progress through the white patriarchal and feminist world of the 1960's and 70's, through civil rights struggles , draft avoidance and anti-war protests, through the rjeginnings of the women's movement, through college teaching and the early days of feminist scholarship, through discussions with black women and men about racial identity . When I read this essay from the perspective of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 81-87
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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