Staging Motherhood: Representations of the Maternal in 21st Century North American Theatre

deadline for submissions: 
August 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Lynn Deboeck
contact email: 

We are currently seeking abstracts for an edited volume on representations of motherhood in 21st Century North American theatre (which we take to include Canada and Mexico, as well as the United States and its territories).


The representation of mother figures on stage, like our understanding of mothers off stage, is elusively intricate and complex. Current scholarship suggests that socially-constructed ideas about motherhood remain a limiting force in the scope of representations seen in contemporary theatre and elsewhere. Often defined solely through the context of their relationship to living children, and further constructed, defined or limited by gendered distinctions from fathers, mothers—in their myriad of forms and identities—are under-represented both on stage and in theatre scholarship.


Nonetheless, a rich history of feminist theoretical lenses has, and might continue to find, productive application to contemporary drama, providing ways of thinking about social scripts, identity, power, feminist ideology and the maternal that continue to bear productively on feminist theatre scholarship. Still more can be contributed to this discourse by analyzing maternity in performance from new perspectives and in ways that continue to challenge our perceptions while also looking beyond a resistance to motherhood as an institution, and valuing the labor of mothers.


Thus this volume, Staging Motherhood: Representations of the Maternal in 21st Century North American Theatre, aims to broaden the ways in which we might consider the presence of mothers in contemporary theatre, taking up a the wide range of texts, modes of theatrical representation, maternal experiences, critical lenses, perspectives and interrogations that expand our understanding of motherhood on stage today.


The editors seek essay proposals that explore questions about where and how mothers are scripted and performed, which versions of motherhood are staged and why, and how theatre participates in and challenges social expectations about the maternal. Recognizing maternity as significant, variable, complex and valuable, essays should serve to place mothers in the subject--rather than object—position, even when they examine drama that does not.


Essays should engage with contemporary representations of mothers (including those persons whose identity politics expand the typically limited notions of ‘mother’) from a range of critical perspectives, and across a range of drama, including plays, musicals, solo-performance, documentary theatre, and devised work. Essays should engage topics that address the performance of maternity in its many different stages, guises and constructions. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Staging the reproductive potential of female bodies
  • Representations of maternal identities, race, class, and power.
  • Motherhood and borders
  • Queer motherhood
  • Maternal communities and kinship structures
  • Eroticism, sexuality and fetishization in maternal representation
  • The invisibility/visibility of mothers and pregnant bodies
  • Idealized narratives, myths of motherhood, and social scripts.
  • Staging childbirth (or not)
  • Adoption
  • Matriarchal metaphors (the Motherland, Mother Nature, Mother tongue)
  • Monstrous mothers and performing bodies
  • Postpartum experience, transition and loss
  • Nursing mothers, bonding, abjection and the body’s ambiguous borders
  • Maternal identity and terminated pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirth and infertility
  • The role of medicine and science in pregnancy, birth and motherhood
  • Matriarchal power and ‘Post’-motherhood

Routledge has expressed an interest in this volume and we expect a prompt response once the full proposal (inclusive of sample abstracts and potential contributors) is submitted. Please send abstracts of 300-500 words to both Lynn Deboeck and Aoise Stratford (contact info below) by August 31, 2020. If you require an extended deadline, please contact the editors by August 1st. Please include your name, affiliation, e-mail and phone number. Chapter length, if abstracts are accepted: 3000 to 5000 words, likely due February 2021. Questions? Contact Lynn Deboeck ( and/or Aoise Stratford (