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Gullette, M.M. (2000). Wicked Powerful: The Postmaternal in Contemporary Film and Psychoanalytic Theory. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 5(2):107-139.

(2000). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 5(2):107-139

Wicked Powerful: The Postmaternal in Contemporary Film and Psychoanalytic Theory

Margaret Morganroth Gullette

In nature, ironically, mothers defending their young are known to be the most savage animals of all

[Carroll, 1997, p. 17].

Which bodies in particular incite suspicion, scrutiny, desire, and controversy in clashes of power?

[Urla and Terry, 1995, p. 4].

The figure of the postmaternal woman—the mother of an adult child—is often represented in movies as inextricably absorbed in her adult child's life and sometimes as preternaturally powerful and dangerous. This essay tries to explain what factors in 1990s American culture brought forward such depictions and raises the question of what, if anything, they have to do with the Phallic Mother. Throughout, the essay theorizes an alternative figure, located at the same intersection of gender, family-life stage, and age. Pointing out that there are new postmaternal subjects, it emphasizes that these women are performing diverse countercultural identities and activities and asks therapists to coconstruct the figure: the first

way is by demythologizing “the Mother” in conjunction with their young adult clients; the second way would be by investigating the psychic transformations that may occur as women-who-mother distance themselves over time from the superheated dyad of maternal discourse. Therapists can study this process either with patients who are postmaternal, or, if they themselves are, through self-reflection.

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