Parental Guidance Advised: The Mother as GPS (ACLA, Toronto 4/4-7/2013; deadline 11/1/2012)

full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association

Presenters sought for a panel on mothers or discourses on motherhood as guides. Submit paper proposals to by 1 November 2012.

Seminar leaders: Valerie Bherer and Rachel McWhorter (University of Minnesota).

This panel is interested in narratives of motherhood that represent mothers as "guides" and "maps" for different subjectivities. In Freudian theory, for instance, the mother, as the child's first love object, is the catalyst for his or her development; likewise, in The Second Sex, the little girl emulates her mother, who provides her with a "guide" to ideal femininity. These narratives of motherhood, then, position the mother as both guide – literally guiding the newborn into the world, the child into adulthood, the girl into femininity – and the map itself – a model to emulate.

As they have been guides for subjectivities, mothers have also been instrumental in mapping out politics. For instance, in the generational model of feminism, the metaphorical second-wave mother provides both a map for the political, but also discourses against which third-wave feminism rebels and defines itself. This tension highlights the double process of individuation in which the mother constitutes both the map to follow as well as the one to negate.

This panel welcomes papers investigating the role of mother as guide, and the ways in which these forms of guiding coalesce or contradict each other. What kinds of guiding do mothers engage in? How do women who mother or identify as mothers find themselves being guided by different prescriptions – by patriarchal ideologies at large, but also by parenting guides and other forms of self-help literature? What are the ramifications of getting "children" to their destination? Of leading them astray?