Rewriting the Maternal Archetype
What if the goddess Athena, who sprang fully grown from Zeus's head and denied she had a mother, became aware of the compelling existence of her other parent? What if she discovered that her mother, Metis -- first wife of Zeus and "wiser than all gods and mortal men," according to Hesiod -- was swallowed by her father and continued to impart her wisdom to him from inside his belly? Recent Spanish novels by women parallel this hypothetical situation based on Greek myth by featuring female protagonists who obsessively reexamine the lives of their mothers, seeking to know and understand them.
In Mother and Myth in Spanish Novels, Sandra J. Schumm examines six narratives by Spanish authors published since 2000 that focus on a daughter's search to know more about her matriarchal heritage. Carme Riera's La mitad del alma, Lucía Etxebarria's Un milagro en equilibrio, Rosa Montero's El conrazón del tátaro, Cristina Cerezales's De oca a oca, María de la Pau Janer's Las mujeres que hay en mí, and Soledad Puértolas's Historia de un abrigo. In each of these novels, the protagonist realizes that failure to integrate the loss of her mother into her life results in the inability to define her self. Without valorization of the maternal subject, the legacy of the daughter is at risk -- she is also objectified and swallowed -- and the whole society suffers. The daughters' attention to their mothers in these novels is as if Athena had finally recognized that her mother, Metis, had been ingested by Zeus. The myth of Metis and Athena becomes a metaphor of the daughter's quest toward wholeness and individuation in these works; she begins to understand that her maternal legacy is a source of wisdom that has been obscured. These novels by Spanish women strengthen the mother's voice, rescue her from anonymity, and rewrite the matriarchal archetype.
"Mother and Myth in Spanish Novels: Rewriting the Maternal Archetype shows a depth of research and breadth of knowledge as well as an accessible writing style that make it an essential resource for anyone interested in recent Spanish fiction. Teachers and scholars alike will appreciate this work. Schumm's book gives ample cultural, historical, and political background to be useful for a class,and the literary analysis and interconnections shown demonstrate a depth of knowledge helpful to any scholar."
--Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, 66:4
"...her study is extremely valuable in its focus upon female-authored novels of the early twenty-first century...it belongs in the libraries of all who value cogent arguments about the writers' efforts to transform and commemorate the figure of the mother through a process that 'focuses on remembering the mother...for self-knowledge and individuation, but [based as well in] another objective...to create a different world' (p. 160)"
--Teresa S. Soufas, Temple University; Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature (32.2/32.1) Fall 2013/Spring 2014
About the author:
Sandra J. Schumm is Professor of Spanish at Baker University.
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