Human Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 253–270

The Embodied Chiasmic Relationship of Mother and Infant

  • Francine Wynn

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005380703076

Cite this article as:
Wynn, F. Human Studies (1997) 20: 253. doi:10.1023/A:1005380703076


In this paper the very earliest relationship of mother and newborn will be described phenomenologically through an interlacing of Donald Winnicott's work on maternal holding with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's concepts of flesh and chiasm. Merleau-Ponty's thinking suggests that the holding relationship described by Winnicott is formed as much by the infant's holding of the mother as it is by mother's holding of her infant. Both flex and bend towards each other and inscribe each other yet retain their own particularity. Further specification and articulation of the lived body of both arises from the ongoing overlapping and sedimenting of past and current touches, movements, sounds, and sightings initiated internally and externally. Examples drawn from fieldwork and secondary sources will illustrate this ongoing embodied relationship.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francine Wynn
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of NursingUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada