The Maternal Heroine

Jane Messer

Abstract

There is a Chinese curse quoted in glib desk calendars that have a phrase for each day: ‘May you live in interesting times’. In fiction, maternity has not often been seen as terribly interesting, and in the real world having babies often stops a mother from writing, off and on and even for years. The story of mothers and babies seems elusive, not fit for the imagination, for where’s the story? The ‘maternal heroine’, a protagonist and main character whose actions and identity are closely bound up with her work and experience of herself as a mother of young and dependent children, is rare. How could she not be? She’s busy giving off strong whiffs of routine. Where’s the drama in that? And what are babies? They’re not thinking, arguing agents for change—hardly protagonists—even if antagonistic at the cocktail hour. At least, that is one way of opening up the question of the maternal heroine.

Keywords

Maternity; maternal heroine; writing; motherhood

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