Portrait of the Mother-artist

Portrait of the Mother-artist : Class and Creativity in Contemporary American Fiction

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What is the relationship between motherhood and art? How do literary texts represent mothers' artistic creativity? How do structures of social class, and its intersections with gender, race, and ethnicity, shape such representations? Nancy Gerber's study addresses these issues through examination of a figure the author identifies as a "mother-artist." Through close readings of selected contemporary American fictions-Gwendolyn Brooks's only published novel, Maud Martha (1953); Tillie Olsen's stories "I Stand Here Ironing" (1956) and "Tell Me a Riddle" (1960); Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl" (1989); and Edwidge Danticat's novel Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)- the author explores the development of black and working class mother-artists and analyzes their capacity to transform domestic spaces into sites for artistic expression.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 116 pages
  • 155 x 237 x 14mm | 290g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • bibliography, index
  • 0739105442
  • 9780739105443

Review quote

Gerber revitalizes feminist theories of motherhood and creativity. She problematizes a feminist literary history that has tended to presume, under Woolf's dictum, that art only materialized with the assurance of solitude, time, and financial means, and shows her readers the inexorable advent and production of art in everyday life. -- Fran Bartkowski, Rutgers University, Newark Gerber's study is of crucial significance for feminist literary studies not only because it provides a rare examination of the role of class and race in determining women's experiences of motherhood and how such becomes represented in fiction, but also because it explains why, how, and in which ways the experience of motherhood at the margins of culture gives rise to a distinct literary tradition, that of the mother-artist narrative. Gerber describes and delineates the themes and features of this literary tradition and in so doing develops a rich and nuanced poetics of maternal creativity. -- Andrea O'Reilly, Director, Centre for Research on Mothering, York University A superb reader and elegant writer, Nancy Gerber names and examines the 'mother-artist,' a figure whom psychoanalytical theory cannot imagine and whom even feminist critics have neglected. The mother who is an artist in contemporary fiction is a working-class character-one who develops an 'aesthetic of the ordinary,' fashions political critique out of domestic metaphor, and sustains a rich interior life despite material poverty. Gerber shows how the mother-artist-whether a black domestic, white factory worker, Holocaust survivor, or Haitian immigrant-leaves a legacy of beauty and hope. -- Cheryl A. Wall, Rutgers University, New Brunswickshow more

About Nancy Gerber

Nancy Gerber holds a doctorate in Literatures in English from Rutgers University. She teaches in the Women's Studies Department at Rutgers University-Newark.show more

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Foreword: Writing out of the Margins: Maternity, Marginality, and the Emergence of a Maternal Kunstlerroman Chapter 2 The Artist in the Mother and the Textual Possibilities of Creativity Chapter 3 A Poet in the Kitchen: Gwendolyn Brooks's Maude Martha (1953) Chapter 4 The Poet at the Crossroads: Breaking the Silence in Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing (1956) andTell Me a Riddle (1960) Chapter 5 The Ghost of History: Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl (1989) Chapter 6 Rewriting the Marassa: Storytelling and Healing the Mother-Daughter Relationship in Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)show more