We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

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

Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction

Elissa Marder

Publication Year: 2012

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 patriarchalaccounts 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 theunspeakable 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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page and Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.7 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (86.6 KB)
pp. ix-xi

This book was born over a long period of time. While most of the texts contained in it were composed fairly recently, a few of them were written long ago. Looking back, I recall that many years ago, after a . . .

read more

Introduction: Pandora’s Legacy

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.0 KB)
pp. 1-16

This book grows out of a long-standing fascination with the uncanny status of the mother in literature, psychoanalysis, philosophy, film, and photography. Sigmund Freud famously derives the psychoanalytic notion of . . .

Part One Psychoanalysis and the Maternal Function

pdf iconDownload PDF (38.8 KB)
p. 17-17

read more

One The Sex of Death and the Maternal Crypt

pdf iconDownload PDF (125.6 KB)
pp. 19-36

“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 . . .

read more

Two Mourning, Magic, and Telepathy

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.8 KB)
pp. 37-52

There is no mourning without magic, Jacques Derrida will have told us in various ways in numerous texts spanning from the early 1970s up until the end and beyond. And, as we shall see, by linking mourning to magic, . . .

read more

Three The Sexual Animal and the Primal Scene of Birth

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.3 KB)
pp. 53-76

If the case history popularly referred to by the animal nickname of his most famous patient, “the Wolf Man,” remains Freud’s most notorious clinical case, it is in part because it has never been . . .

read more

Four Back of Beyond: Anxiety and the Birth of the Future

pdf iconDownload PDF (108.0 KB)
pp. 77-88

Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) is often thought to be Freud’s most philosophical work. It is not then surprising, that philosophers have devoted so much critical attention to it. As Jacques Derrida points out . . .

Part Two Photography and the Prosthetic Maternal

pdf iconDownload PDF (38.8 KB)
p. 89-89

read more

Five On Psycho-Photography: Shame and Abu Ghraib

pdf iconDownload PDF (129.2 KB)
pp. 91-110

Although one might want to argue that all politics can be seen as an attempt to manage fear, in the aftermath of 9/11 fear has explicitly dominated prevailing political discourse and dictated U.S. domestic and foreign . . .

read more

Six Avital Ronell’s Body Politics

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.7 KB)
pp. 111-129

In a certain sense, one might begin by saying “she told us so,” but perhaps we didn’t hear her well enough. For a long time now, over many years and in her many important works ranging from the early . . .

read more

Seven Blade Runner ’s Moving Still

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.5 KB)
pp. 130-148

In the time that has elapsed since Blade Runner’s first commercial release, Ridley Scott’s 1982 science-fiction film has been retroactively hailed as one of the most powerful and influential examples of cinematic . . .

read more

Eight Nothing to Say: Fragments on the Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (106.6 KB)
pp. 149-159

Ironically, the author of “The Death of the Author” did not, in fact, touch the question of his own death in that influential essay. But in his last work— published after the death of his mother and during the short . . .

Part Three Photo-Readings and the Possible Impossibilities of Literature

pdf iconDownload PDF (38.8 KB)
p. 161-161

read more

Nine Darkroom Readings: Scenes of Maternal Photography

pdf iconDownload PDF (200.1 KB)
pp. 163-194

The figure of photography as a mortifying prosthetic mother with which we ended the last chapter is only part of story that Barthes’s text tells about the complex relation between photography and the mother in . . .

read more

Ten The Mother Tongue in Phèdre and Frankenstein

pdf iconDownload PDF (126.0 KB)
pp. 195-213

Apparently, Phèdre and Frankenstein make strange bedfellows. Racine’s tragedy is the exemplary text of seventeenth-century French drama while Mary Shelley’s horror tale has been read as a gloss on the English Romantic . . .

read more

Eleven Birthmarks (Given Names)

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.3 KB)
pp. 214-228

Hélène Cixous’s writings are, to some degree, radically untranslatable. Not so much because they are written in French, but because they are not. If Hélène Cixous’s texts resist translation it is because, as we shall . . .

read more

Twelve Bit: Mourning Remains in Derrida and Cixous

pdf iconDownload PDF (136.0 KB)
pp. 229-249

Bit. In English, the word is “bit.” But which bit is this bit? Is it a noun or a verb? Is it a piece of something torn off with the teeth, or is it an act of biting or having been bitten? According to the . . .

n o t e s

pdf iconDownload PDF (172.9 KB)
pp. 251-284


pdf iconDownload PDF (109.5 KB)
pp. 285-300


pdf iconDownload PDF (81.7 KB)
pp. 301-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249510
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823240555
Print-ISBN-10: 082324055X

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012