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Tubert, S. (1996). Deconstructing maternal desire. Free Associations, 6(2):235-257.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(2):235-257

Deconstructing maternal desire

Silvia Tubert

All the reviews and critiques published by the press following the debut of Yerma (García Lorca, 19771), a dramatic poem in three acts and six scenes, by Federico García Lorca,2 in 1934, center around the protagonist's obsession to accomplish her maternal desire. For example, the central character is defined as ‘a pathological case, with a one track mind, obsessive, crazy’ (La Epoca); they assert that ‘her obsession for the dream child is none other than an evident manifestation of paranoia(El Correo Catalán), that ‘the entire work revolves around the frustrated desire of the obsessed’ (La Nación), etc. (quoted in Fernandez Cifuentes, 1986).

But such obsession is really less descriptive than symptomatic, and the critics have fallen into a fallacy that identifies the character with the person, granting her a temperament and a pathology (Ibid.). In this sense, we could appreciate the obsession incarnated by the character of Yerma, not as the symptom of the disorder of a person, but rather as a symbol that refers to the discursive construction of the representation of woman as mother.

García Lorca stated that ‘there is no plot in Yerma. I wanted to do it so: a tragedy, a tragedy, purely and simply’ (quoted in Soria Olmedo, 1989). But, in my opinion, it is not, as numerous critics have interpreted, an exaggeration ‘of the theme of sterility in an effort to raise it to the category of tragedy’ (Diario de Madrid), (quoted in Fernandez Cifuentes, 1986) but the tragedy implied by the alternative posed to the female sex in our culture: the alienation by means of identification with the cultural ideal of maternity, or the non-being, the absolute void. In other words, the plenitude of an absolute and unquestioned meaning of femininity, in a religious sense, or the complete lack of meaning.


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