The Mother of All Horrors: Medea’s Infanticide in African American Literature
Combining myth analysis with Julia Kristeva’s 1980 formulation of abjection, Dokou explores the consummate horror scenario of a mother becoming infanticide under duress, as depicted in Euripides’s Medea and the African American Medeas of Frances Harper’s second “Slave Mother” poem (1874) and Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel Beloved. The texts are used to elucidate a reversal of the Kristevan developmental model, showing that the archetypal horror they depict is that of the mother abjecting the child, and not the other way around, as Kristeva’s elaboration on Lacanian psycholinguistics suggests. Such a horrific rejection of, and simultaneous absolute claim on, the infant as occurs in maternal infanticide brings to the fore the evils of what Freud called “social neuroses,” like slavery, that cause this distortion of maternal love.
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