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Moskowitz, S. (1996). Representations of motherhood. Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, Merle Mahrer Kaplan, eds. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994. 294 + viii pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(5):799-803.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(5):799-803

Representations of motherhood. Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, Merle Mahrer Kaplan, eds. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994. 294 + viii pp.

Review by:
Sally Moskowitz, Ph.D.

Representations of Motherhood is a collection of compelling new work by prominent, primarily feminist writers from a variety of disciplines. It is an exciting book, unique in its subject matter and particularly in its inclusion of material from an unusually wide range of fields. Papers by psychoanalysts Chasseguet-Smirgel, Jessica Benjamin, Elsa First, Donna Bassin, and Adria Schwartz are brought together with papers by feminist academicians working in the social sciences, literature, art, and philosophy, as well as with short stories and reproductions of art work. The editors have organized these pieces skillfully into a sequence which makes the very diverse material unexpectedly read as a whole. So, for example, the yearning for the powerful, all-giving mother addressed in the psychoanalytic papers is echoed in the story by Jane Lazarre depicting the shifting and fragile nature of family and home. Similarly, complex issues discussed in academic papers concerning the social and psychological consequences of new images of mother that have resulted from current technological, medical, and social developments are wryly captured in Barbara Kruger's art.

The main focus of Representations of Motherhood is the analysis of mother as subject, as a woman with desires, ideas, and fantasies of her own, in counterpoint to mother as object, described primarily in terms of her need-gratifying or frustrating aspects to others. In the feminist tradition, the book emphasizes the importance of mother speaking for herself from her own point of view about her experiences and knowledge.

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