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Palgrave Macmillan
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Narratives of Motherhood and Mothering in Fiction and Life Writing

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

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  • Provides in-depth analyses of contemporary representations of motherhood and mothering in literature
  • Covers several national contexts while also demonstrating the diversity within and between these contexts
  • Collectively argues for the international emergence of maternal voices in contemporary literature
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

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Table of contents (9 chapters)


About this book

This open access volume offers original essays on how motherhood and mothering are represented in contemporary fiction and life writing across several national contexts. Providing a broad range of perspectives in terms of geopolitical places, thematic concerns, and theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches, it demonstrates the significance of literary narratives for understanding and critiquing motherhood and mothering as social phenomena and subjective experiences. The chapters contextualize motherhood and mothering in terms of their particular national and cultural location and analyze narratives about mothers who are firmly placed in one national context, as well as those who are in “in-between” positions due to migrant experiences. The contributions foreground and link together the themes central to the volume: embodied experience and maternal embodiment; notions of what is “normal” or natural (or not) about motherhood; maternal health and illness; mother-daughter relations;maternality and memory; and the (im)possibilities of giving voice to the mother. They raise questions about how motherhood and mothering are marked by absence and/or presence, as well as by profound ambivalences.



“Narratives of Motherhood and Mothering in Fiction and Life Writing is a timely and necessary contribution to the emergent field of matricentric literary theory and criticism.  What makes this collection so original and innovative is how it takes up the themes of matrifocal literary theory through perspectives not yet fully included in the field. With contributions from Canada/Lebanon, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, along with chapters on trans, queer, solo, and nonmothers, the collection profoundly expands, enriches, and problematizes current conversations and investigations in this emergent field of literary inquiry. Indeed, in stirring up vital and crucial debates, this collection is a ‘must read’ text for matricentric literary scholars.” (Andrea O’Reilly, Professor, School of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, York University, Canada, and author of Matricentric Feminism: Theory, Activism, Practice (2021))

“This fascinating study of women’s narratives of motherhood and mothering, bringing together a variety of approaches and styles from different literary cultures and contexts, builds on, and extends existing scholarship to offer new insights in a cross-cultural frame. It contributes to a burgeoning feminist field of work, inquiry, and debate, critiquing and shaping how mothers, mothering, and motherhood are heard and understood. A new point of reference in motherhood studies.” (Gill Rye, Professor, Institute of Languages, Cultures, and Societies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

    Helena Wahlström Henriksson

  • Department of Literature, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

    Anna Williams, Margaretha Fahlgren

About the editors

Helena Wahlström Henriksson is Professor of Gender Studies and Associate Professor of American Literature, and currently the Director of the Uppsala University Centre for Gender Research, at Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interests include feminist cultural studies, life-writing, film and other media, studies of family and kinship, single parents, and parenting over the life course.

Anna Williams is Professor of Literature at Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interests include literature and gender, working class literature, and biography.

Margaretha Fahlgren is Professor Emerita of Literature at Uppsala University, Sweden. Formerly, she served as Director and Research Director of the Uppsala University Centre for Gender Research. Her research interests range from classic Swedish literature to popular culture.


Bibliographic Information

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