Archive for November, 2013

Retracing in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis – by Sarah MacGregor Group A

This post thinks about Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis in relation to Hillary Chute’s essay, ‘The Texture of Retracing in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis



Chute explores the ways in which Satrapi uses the form of the graphic novel to convey the traumatic experience of the Iranian Revolution. This form is perhaps uniquely capable of capturing and expressing such experiences. Chute suggests that the abstraction of traumatic images, in Satrapi’s minimal black-and-white style, is what makes them so powerful.

There is a debate which was particularly prevalent following the Holocaust, about whether or not certain events should be represented, or if there is ever a way to truly portray them. Chute looks at the way Persepolis draws attention to the inability of both language and images to fully do justice to traumatic events, particularly by displaying events from the limited perspective of a child, writing that ‘Persepolis at once comments on the insufficiency of any representation to “fully” represent trauma and also harnesses the power of the visual to represent an important emotional landscape (the child’s)’.

Persepolis links political and historical trauma with the personal, highlighting how the events surrounding the revolution were part of her everyday life, existing alongside the mundane. According to Chute, ‘the narrative’s force and bite come from the radical disjuncture between the often-gorgeous minimalism of Satrapi’s drawings and the infinitely complicated traumatic events they depict’. However, ‘while Persepolis may show trauma as (unfortunately) ordinary, it rejects the idea that it is (or should ever be) normal’.

I would also add that, particularly as a Western reader, the personal nature of Satrapi’s story is what makes it so accessible. It is much harder to detach yourself as a reader when the historical is so closely interwoven with the personal.



Sylvia Plath and Motherhood: by Liam Doheny Group B


Sylvia Plath is well known for documenting her life through her work – through much of her poetry we see Plath deal with the inner demons she continued to do battle with right up until her suicide. Domesticity and more specifically pregnancy and motherhood did not escape the fate of being included in some of her more darker works. Jeannine Dobbs uses ‘Viciousness in the Kitchen: Sylvia Plath’s Domestic Poetry’ to explore how Plath explored such issues and what they potentially say about her attitudes towards them.


Plath’s attitudes towards marriage and especially motherhood was conflicted throughout her life. She seemed to switch perspectives – within a matter of years – from not wanting to be tied down to a child and a husband to feeling the need to marry. Dobbs directly quotes Plath ‘”I don’t know how I can bare to go back to the states unless I’m married”‘[1] expressing her fear of becoming ‘”one of those women […] blue stocking grotesques”‘[2]. Plath, as perhaps many women do, feared that by not becoming a wife and mother than society would reject her and denounce her status as a woman and it is due to this pressure – despite her fears – that she does marry and does become a mother.


Yet, still not wanting to resign herself completely to domesticity and motherhood, Plath still pursued a writing career. Plath ‘wanted to have it all’ as many women do and suffered as a result. Though sometimes she seemed fulfilled by her role as wife and mother there were other times where she felt obvious resentment ‘”children seem an impetus to writing'” and often felt that her children stifled her art[3]. It is within her work, Dobbs argues, that Plath explores these conflicts of interest and her feelings towards motherhood.

Dobbs uses The Colossus to illustrate that much of the work that dealt with motherhood from that collection were primarily dark or fearful[4]. In relation to ‘The Manor Garden’ she argues that although the poem contains some positive images of pregnancy and childbirth they are ultimately overshadowed by the more darker and negative ones. Even when Plath attempts to write about the subject in a more positive way (she uses the poem ‘Metaphors’ as her example) they are her weaker poetry – arguing that she ‘could not deal with maternity or babies in a positive manner’[5] (whether Dobbs is being too harsh here is up to individual interpretation).

What Plath does in her work, in my opinion, is really interesting. She seems to dissolve the myth of all women being naturally embracing of motherhood. Plath reveals the dark truth that some mothers face – motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth can be terrifying prospects that leave some women feeling trapped, isolated and resentful, especially if they have had to give up on/damage their careers by becoming mothers.

[1] Jeannine Dobbs, ‘”Viciousness in the Kitchen”: Sylvia Plath’s Domestic Poetry’, Modern Language Studies, 7, 2, (1977), 11-25, p.12

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid., p.13

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid., p.20

A Mother: To Be or Not to Be that is the Question, by Sara Hope Group B


Caitlin Moran is one of my favourite writers’ on any subject ever thought of. Her first non-fiction book, How to be a Woman, is part hilarious memoir and part feminist manifesto. She makes the topic of feminism funny, thus making it accessible to a wider audience of people – especially younger readers who wonder whether they can call themselves feminists and are then put off the idea by some of the weightier tomes written on the subject.

Her treatment of motherhood is no different, and she offers a light-hearted view of a subject that is a source of equal parts joy and misery to many women.

Her first chapter, ‘Why You Should Have Children’, begins rather terrifyingly by describing horrors of the birthing process such as blood transfusions, cervix dilation and ants. Moran goes into graphic detail about the two day labour she suffered with her own first child which all seems rather incongruous when considering the chapter title.  She turns it around however, saying that the pain she went through giving birth was actually a helpful, though not enjoyable experience. She notes that, ‘a furious, 24-hour dose of wildly intolerable pain sorts out many of the more fretful, dolorous aspects of modern life.’[1]











For the most part, fiction tends to two extremes with regards to giving birth. Films show a woman’s waters break and her speedy progress into the delivery room, and then the next image you see is of a beaming father holding their new bundle of joy in his arms, having had a convenient ‘fade-to-black’ moment during the hard bit. Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum with stories like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ where a woman literally gives birth to the devil in all it’s painful, horrific glory. Moran is refreshing in that aspect as she presents the good with the bad noting that, ‘a dose of pain that intense turns you from a girl into a woman.’[2] Aside from the birthing process, motherhood for Moran is all about love, and love is wonderful. She likens it to being ‘mugged by Cupid.’[3]

I chose this text primarily because Moran presents a balanced argument with regards to motherhood, as shown in the second chapter ‘Why You Shouldn’t Have Children.’ In this Moran engages with something that is the bane of every woman’s life if they reach a certain age and have yet to procreate – the question “When are you going to have children?” Not ‘Are’ … ‘When.’ As if it is a given that you want to create little versions of yourself to smear chocolate on the walls and pull the cat’s tail.


The modern world seems consistently pre-occupied with when a woman is going to have children in a way that it isn’t with men. Women are the ones who are expected to plan when they want a baby; a man can just fall into the idea as if he has been asked if he wants jam on his toast. This is reflected in children’s toys, with baby dolls exclusively marketed towards little girls as if we are telling our daughters that they must think about having babies of their own whilst still being babies themselves.

Moran acknowledges this, saying ‘You never get asked to ask Marilyn Manson if he’s been hanging around in JoJo Maman Bébé, touching tiny booties and crying.’[4] She also reflects on the idea that choosing not to have children somehow makes a woman’s life incomplete, as if ‘their narrative has ground to a halt in their thirties if they don’t ‘finish things’ properly, and have children.’

Overall Moran shows us that as society stands now, motherhood is a vital part of any woman’s life – even the one’s without children – and that needs to change. A woman’s life is not about the potential of the thing we might produce, but about her own potential. As Moran puts it, there needs to be an end to ‘baby angst’ because whilst motherhood is lovely, there are other things to be getting on with.

[1]  Moran, Caitlin, ‘Why You Should Have Children’, in How To Be A Woman, 2nd edn (London: Random House, 2012), p. 224,

[2]  p.225

[3] P.227

[4] P. 239

We Need to Talk About Gender – Daniella Fa Group A

“We Need to Talk About Gender: Mothering and Masculinity in Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin” by Emily Jerimiah in Textual Mothers: Motherhood in Contemporary Women’s Literatures – Edited by Elizabeth Podnieks, Andrea O’Reilly, (pp 169 – 181),+jeremiah&source=bl&ots=fYDGb0Yby9&sig=9jdMPGo1iijpno2VYkruk6_EJ5I&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Z1N6Uvf8OLSg0wXEp4G4Bw&ved=0CFYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=we%20need%20to%20talk%20about%20gender%2C%20jeremiah&f=false

This essay depicts the images of motherhood and women becoming more masculine with regards to Shriver’s novel We Need to Talk about Kevin.

The essay firstly mentions the different feminist theories in relation to gender, such as de Beauvoir’s observation that gender is a construct: one is not born, but rather becomes a woman. There are norms associated with gender but these can be disrupted. This relates to the idea of maternity, for if parenting is a mode of cognition, then males can do it to the same extent as women. It asks the question: if we can accept the notion of men as “mothers”, why can’t we accept the notion of women as “fathers”?  Female masculinity threatens the institution of motherhood, as the ideologies of motherhood and femininity are interdependent. To disrupt one is to disrupt the other.
Motherhood is also a choice, a difference to previous times where women were expected to be only mothers and housewives. Before Eva chooses to become pregnant, she is a successful businesswoman who travels the world, which can be seen as “masculine”. Once she has the baby she is trapped in a boring life where her identity evaporates and her knowledge cannot be applied to motherhood. This backs up Freidan’s theory that women’s unhappiness comes about because they want more than just to be mothers and wives. In contrast, Eva’s mother is cloistered and fearful like the previous image of women as “mad”.  This shows the generational shift towards women being more masculine.
Eva seems to be feminist as she rejects the traditional ideals of women as being nurturing and caring, but her “masculine” individualism is not attractive. It could be dangerous to re inscribe women as guardians of morality. There are hints of maternal sadism in the novel, when Eva throws the six year old Kevin across the room, breaking his arm. This shows maternal power, and it shows the importance of a mother’s care and protection but it is no way for a mother to behave.
Eva would never reveal to anyone that childbirth did not make her feel anything which is closely linked to the ideologies of motherhood and femininity.

“Simone de Beauvoir and the Demystification of Motherhood” -Group A Blog Symone Keisha

Yolanda Astarita Patterson – Simone de Beauvoir and the Demystification of Motherhood

mum and child

The topic that I am focusing on is images of motherhood in literature and the essay I chose to support this is: Simone de Beauvoir and the Demystification of Motherhood by Yolanda Astarita Patterson.  Patterson uses examples of Simone de Beauvoir’s texts, as well as de Beauvoir’s personal life experiences with her own mother and the relationship between her best friend and her mother to show the negative side of motherhood.

The essay opens up describing de Beauvoir’s mother, Francoise. Francoise possessed qualities that you would expect to find in a mother; she was maternal, caring and affectionate however she also possessed over-bearing and controlling qualities which were a direct result of society. De Beauvoir continually iterates that society and tradition thrusts motherhood onto women when it should be a choice, thus creating dysfunctional relationships between mother and child.


De Beauvoir also argues that motherhood places limitations on women. In her text, The Mandarins, a daughter tells her mother that ‘all women can do is vegetate’. This strong statement sums up what motherhood did to most women; it sucked away women’s own personal interests and independence and placed being a mother at the forefront. Women are crushed and left with nothing when they’re separated with their children because they invested all of their time and energy on their children and families. Once gone, they feel they have no purpose in their lives.

crying mum

De Beauvoir also addresses the different types of mothers and there are examples of these in all her texts. She highlights the domineering and manipulative mothers whose attributes are determined by religion and society; the mothers who feel that their children are trapping them and disallowing them to live life as they want to; the women who have an abundance of love and devotion for their children, only for it to not be fully returned. All of these negative aspects to motherhood are de Beauvoir’s way of warning women. She wants women to make motherhood a controlled choice rather than something that they have succumbed to.

stressed mum


Who Speaks for Women? “Masculinity and Women’s Writing’ Mariam Bello – Group B

ImageThe article I found in realtion to ‘who speaks for women?’ Is by Gendering English Studies: Masculinity and Women’ Writing Author : Diana Wallace.

Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 2011, Vol.10(1), p.31-37

This article addresses the silences and anxieties provoked by the gendering of English Studies as a subject taught by men to women. The writer reflects on her own experience as a female student and lecturer within a subject that has been “professionalized” by males.

‘In this particular article Wallace addresses the modern day rights between male and female writers. She states that the world of literature has been proffesionalized by men and how it is clearly visible to see through male students at university because they are less likely to sign up to women’s writing modules or find thmeselves as the minority in a class where geder is continually under disccusion. In relation to Virginia Woolf’s ‘A room of ones own’, Wallace describes her book as a heated text frequently thrown up for discussion with both her male and female students. This partly is due to her style and class status, as a female writer issues of gender was almost difficult for a male student to come to terms with and sfound it hard to see that women were oppressed.

Ultimately we see that the masculine world has and may still continue to have a hold on the way women write. Modern day society reveals this and shows the gulf between both genders, when really literature should be a means of expression for whatever gender, class, status, race and background we come from.