Toward a masculine maternal: Pat Barker's bodily fictions

Jolly, Margaretta (2005) Toward a masculine maternal: Pat Barker's bodily fictions. In: Monteith, S, Jolly, Margaretta, Yousaf, N and Paul, R (eds.) Critical Perspectives on Pat Barker. University of South Carolina Press, pp. 235-253. ISBN 9781570035708

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I argue that Barker's representation of the body signifies her scepticism about social ideals of enlightenment and political liberation. Yet physical life is also posed as a liminal source of hope for change, as the mouth of the socially repressed, and as the foundation for a metaphysics of birth rather than death. In this latter sense, I propose that Marianne Hirsch's theory of maternal narrative form provides a fruitful context for understanding Barker's interest in the body's alternative reason. However, Barker modifies Hirsch's conception of maternal form by expanding maternity to encompass male as well as female nurturing, and by considering its relationship to England's class struggle. This controversially situates men at the point of greatest pessimism, and yet also grants them the greatest potential for a general redemption. I ask how the symbolic role of physical life relates to another strikingly consistent element of Barker's fiction: the spiritual and ghostly. If the body and spirit rather than the mind become the places of hope, a narrative of progress based in material change and rational agency would appear to have disintegrated. Can we recover the notion of maternal form or perspective as an alternative basis for political agency and collective transcendence? Or are we being asked to accept mere physical survival as the best that history can offer?

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
School of Media, Film and Music > Music
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research
Depositing User: Margaretta Jolly
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:29
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2020 14:44
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