Episode #25: Mothers, Part II - presence and representation
Charlotte and Emma discuss a new generation of mothers in literature, why you can’t hack your way out of parenthood, and how to shove the pram out of the hallway.
Yes, we started off with a renaissance/naissance #dadjoke. You’re welcome!
No, we didn’t accidentally record this episode in double speed, we had just had a lot of coffee and were trying to finish before the childminder returned…
“These 25 Republicans – all white men – just voted to ban abortion in Alabama: Legislation makes abortion a crime at any stage of pregnancy, with the only exception for a serious threat to the health of the woman” The Guardian, 15 May 2019;
Since we recorded this episode, Northern Ireland’s 158-year-long ban on abortion has an end in sight – on 21 October 2019, the new law comes into force, and by 22 October, women currently facing criminal trials for abortion-related offences will have their prosecutions dropped. Here’s Suyin Haynes report for TIME, from 25 July 2019. Follow Suyin on Twitter @suyinsays;
Ludivine Broch is an historian at the University of Westminster. Her blogpost on being a new parent – ‘The Language of Motherhood’ – was published on 28 November 2016. Read it here, and follow Ludivine on Twitter @ludivine_broch;
Sheila Heti’s Motherhood was published in 2018; Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk in 2016, Jaqueline Rose’s Mothers in 2018 and Rachel Cusk’s Outline in 2014;
“My partner and I are both feminists. We both thought I could do everything. I realise that the idea of “having it all” is a golden myth of modern western motherhood. There is a huge gap between what women are expected to be and what it is possible for us to be in the present system.” Read Emma Jane Unsworth’s article on coming to term with her postnatal depression here, and follow Emma on Twitter @emjaneunsworth;
Stephanie Boland’s article is ‘The millennial motherhood trap: Why are so many young, successful women conflicted about having children?’ published by Prospect in May 2018. Read the article here and follow Stephanie on Twitter @stephanieboland;
Emma has a new job! She’s a lecturer in history at Malmö University in Sweden;
In his review of Rosa Prince’s Theresa May: The Enigmatic Prime Minister, David Runciman wrote: “May is much more Cameron’s mirror image than she is his antithesis. Politics is just as personal for her as it is for him. Her version builds personal relationships around the virtues of persistence whereas his built them around the advantages of being in the right place at the right time. He was the essay crisis prime minister. She is the do-your-homework prime minister. That doesn’t make her a politician of substance and him a chancer.” OK. Read the whole review in The London Review of Books here;
Want to hear us discuss how we really feel about May and her legacy? Listen to our episode on Windrush, citizenship, empire and migration here;
Liza Marklund’s first novel about tabloid reporter Annika Bengtzon, Sprängaren (1998), was published in English as The Bomber in 2000. Read more about the series here;
Grantly Dick-Read (1890-1959) was the first president of what is now the National Childbirth Trust (NCT); his book, Natural Childbirth, was first published in 1933. In it, Dick-Read argues against any form of intervention during labour. He believed that British women were too afraid of childbirth and that their fear caused its pain - and falling birthrates. We are… not convinced, and suggest you listen to our episode on eugenics to find out more about its link to theories about childbirth and childrearing;
Teresia Derlén is in the final stages of completing her doctoral studies at King’s College London – her PhD thesis is called ‘A Most Lutheran Nation? – on Popular Religion and Eucharistic Belief in post-Reformation Sweden’;
Camilla Long won Hatchet Job of the Year for her Sunday Times review of Rachel Cusk’s Aftermath in 2012, which included the following sentence: “In a section that is as garbled as it is complicated, she draws odd parallels and repeatedly gives the wrong name for Antigone’s brother. He is not Polylectes, but Polynices — a strange mistake given that she mentions, quite clearly on page 12, that she ‘got into Oxford’.” The whole review can be read here;
Anne Enright’s Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood was published in 2004. Buy it here;
We’re considering billing our panel at the Women’s History Network conference (LSE, 6-7 September 2019) as TNK Live – it’ll feature Emma and Charlotte as well as historian Kate Law. Find out more here;
Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation was published in 2014. In an interview with Foyles, Offill said: “I think the love many women feel for their partners and children is fierce to the point of being obliterating. Especially in the early years, it is hard to remember who you are outside of this. Helen Simpson wrote brilliantly about this compulsion to burn yourself on the pyre of family life in her short story collection, Yeah, Right, Get a Life. Some kinds of ‘madness’ feel almost like a form of protest. A way to point out how narrow our conceptions are of how a life should be.” Read the whole interview here, and buy the book here;
Lauren Elkin’s Art Monsters hasn’t been published yet, but you can read her 2019 essay on ‘Why All the Books on Motherhood?’ in The Paris Review here, and follow Lauren on Twitter @laurenelkin;
Here’s an article about Hester Finch from It’s Nice That. The exhibition How She Looks: Investigating the Female Gaze, which featured some of Hester’s work, can be viewed here. Read more about Hester here;
The baby blanket Sonia Delauney made for her son Charles in 1911 led to the creation of a whole new art movement, Orphism: “About 1911 I had the idea of making for Charles, who had just been born, a blanket composed of bits of fabric like those I had seen in the houses of Russian peasants. When it was finished, the arrangement of the pieces of material seemed to me to evoke cubist conceptions and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings.” See the blanket here, and read more about it here;
Eva the Babysitter by Emma Amos (1973) featured in Soul of a Nation at Tate Modern in 2017. (If Emma Lundin were able to paint, she’d honour Yemisi O and Marcia E - without whom nothing would ever get done - that way too.) Read more about Emma Amos here;
Robyn Wilder is a journalist and parenting columnist – here are her own favourite parenthood columns published by The Pool in 2018. Read more about Robyn here and follow her on Twitter @orbyn;
Rebecca Mead’s article ‘Writers and the Optimal-Child-Count Spectrum’ was published by The New Yorker in 2013 – read it here and follow Rebecca on Twitter @Rebeccamead_NYC;
Heather Able’s article ‘The Baby, the Book, and the Bathwater: On female ambition and what gets thrown out’ was published by The Paris Review in 2018 – read it here and follow Heather on Twitter @heatherkabel;
Charlotte reads from Carrie Fountain’s Eating The Avocado:
Charlotte recommends a retrospective look at Kader Attia’s The Museum of Emotion, which was at the Hayward Gallery during the spring of 2019. She also recommends that you visit Kaleidoscope: Immigration and Modern Britain at Somerset House, which is on until 8 September.
THE NEXT EPISODE…
…will be the second part of our Foreign Policy special – listen to the first part, episode #24, here.
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