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Zeul, M. (1998). Las figuras de la madre [The forms of the mother]. Edited by Silvia Tubert. Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra. 1996. Pp. 322. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:1249-1250.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:1249-1250

Las figuras de la madre [The forms of the mother]. Edited by Silvia Tubert. Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra. 1996. Pp. 322

Review by:
Mechthild Zeul

This collective work is made up of contributions from women psychoanalysts, philologists, historians and anthropologists of various nationalities. The volume's editor seeks by this compilation to demonstrate the constructivistic character of motherhood as expressed in the Judaeo-Christian tradition of patriarchal societies extending from biblical times to present-day western civilisation. The book is an inventory of the history and praxis of the concept of motherhood as seen through feminist eyes. A central hypothesis of almost all the papers here assembled is that the female biological characters are the criterion adopted by patriarchal societies, which therefore once and for all dictate the identity of womanhood and motherhood, so that the former exists solely in terms of the latter. Yet a female debate and also female political activity have developed within the male-determined political and cultural arena. Their origins surely lie in the contributions of Simone de Beauvoir at the end of the 1940s and more particularly in the 1950s, as well as in the American feminist movement of the 1970s, whose demands and fighting strategies quickly spread to Europe. This aspect is merely touched upon in the book under review, whose principal aim is the deconstruction of motherhood as the fruit of the patriarchal order.

Two of the contributions depart from this basic orientation. Esther Sánchez-Prado Gonzales's study entitled ‘Virginia Woolf's mothers’ features both womanhood and motherhood in its description of Woolf's repeated attempts to recreate the dead mother in her writing—and, I would add, in Woolf's chosen mode of suicide, namely drowning in the River Ouse to achieve reunion with the dead mother.

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