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2 Mothering Sons: Stories by Findley, Hodgins, and MacLeod Uncover the Mother’s Double Voice I rather guess that in North American society, especially outside the big cities, the males who become artists have often had strong mothers. In fact I read somewhere, and I wish I could remember who had said this—perhaps with a grain of salt—that a predominant number of North American male writers write with the voice of their mothers. —Jack Hodgins, Kruk The Voice is the Story (my emphasis) I t is perhaps self-evident that female parents nurture their male offspring, but what is a “mothering son”? How—and why—do fictional mothers possess a double voice? Jack Hodgins’s comment on the importance of the mother– son relationship for male writers invites exploration of this neglected theme in Canadian fiction. As Adrienne Rich first pointed out in Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution almost forty years ago, mothering has been minimized, misrepresented, and misunderstood through the male-dominated discourses of medicine, psychiatry, organized religion, law, and the traditional family. Since then, feminist critics have consistently underlined the cultural constructedness of family roles, including the creation of what I call “gender scripts,” after Judith Butler’s famous formulation of gender identity in Gender Trouble as “performative —that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be” (24). This exploration of mothering as cultural discourse has drawn attention to the need, more recently, for an embodied1 and self-reflexive maternal feminist criticism by scholars who are also mothers.2 Such critics challenge perspectives described as both “daughter centric” and “matrophobic,” poet Lynn Sukenick’s term borrowed by Rich, or “the fear not of one’s mother or of motherhood but of becoming one’s mother” (235, my emphasis). In other words, becoming women subordinated by social roles and gender scripts, captive to their reproductive bodies.3 Maternal feminist criticism acknowledges the reality of mothers’ subjugation to cultural construction as much as to women’s physiology, yet also offers the counterbalancing experiences of mothers, not merely as objects, projections of the violent duality “good/bad mother,” but as embodied agents, thinkers, and writers 44 Double-Voicing the Canadian Short Story themselves. Jessica Benjamin’s psychoanalytic theory of “intersubjectivity,” for instance, questions the orthodoxy of identity construction by arguing for a more balanced and autonomous reciprocity between mother and child. Drawing on recent clinical research, she claims that “the infant is never totally undifferentiated (symbiotic) with the mother” (18); thus, the challenge of the child’s development becomes not how to separate in the traditional way from the mother, but how to fully recognize the mother. She observes, Once we accept the idea that infants do not begin life as part of an undifferentiated unity, the issue is not only how we separate from oneness, but also how we connect to and recognize others … how we actively engage and make ourselves known in relation to the other. (18)4 If we are willing to accept a more collaborative construction of identity through mothering, then it may be possible to see the mother also being “mothered,” her identity nurtured, and so finding her double-voice, within an intersubjective mother–child dynamic. Here I am using “voice,” a trope familiar to feminist rhetoric, in two ways: literally, in dramatizations of maternal speaking, and psychologically , where alternations between mothering as private and embodied, or performative and constructed, reveal the mother’s double voice5 as one which mingles agency with subjectivity. I draw on Langellier and Peterson’s feministinspired study of communication acts, with social psychological approaches to family narratives, to explore the rediscovery of a more complex family dynamic in three stories by Canadian “sons”: Findley’s “Almeyer’s Mother” (Stones), Hodgins’s “Invasions ’79” (The Barclay Family Theatre), and MacLeod’s “The Road to Rankin’s Point” (The Lost Salt Gift of Blood). All three offer discussions of the mother–son dynamic (extended to grandmother–grandson in MacLeod), and all centre on a psychologically, politically, and socially overdetermined event: the family, specifically maternal, visit. Such visits are prime venues for “performing family” through storytelling and gendered role-playing, as Langellier and Peterson point out in Storytelling in Everyday Life: “Family is an ongoing formation rather than a natural, pregiven phenomenon. This nonessentialized conception of identity aligns poststructuralism with multiculturalism to decentre, destabilize , and multiply family identities and to resist recreating master narratives of the family” (113). As in the previous chapter’s discussion of stories of...


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