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Silver, C.B. (2007). Womb Envy: Loss and Grief of the Maternal Body. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(3):409-430.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(3):409-430

Womb Envy: Loss and Grief of the Maternal Body

Catherine B. Silver, Ph.D.

At puberty a normal boy has already acquired a conscious knowledge of the vagina but what he fears in women is something uncanny, unfamiliar, and mysterious.

—Karen Horney, Dread of Women

Freud (1919) in The Uncanny discusses the uncertain boundaries between living and inanimate bodies, the figure of the double, involuntary repetition, the occult, and womb phantasies. An uncanny effect is produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is blurred, when things that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appear before us in reality, or when a 1 symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes. The womb as an uncanny Otherness, is a double—me and yet not me—within the self. We are attached to this double by an imagined umbilical cord where the death drive is at work through a lethal desire for fusion with the (m)other (Horney, 1923, p. 139). Using Kristeva's (1993) formulation, the womb as a form of “abjection” calls into question borders that threaten identity through the ambiguity and violence of rejection (negativity) from the (m)other s body (p. 219).

As I was reading for this essay about womb envy, I reflected upon my own life and my own body, questioning how it was that I ended up with an empty womb.

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