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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Transnationalism Research Group: Dr. Nathalie Segeral (University of Hawaii-Mānoa), 'Between Remembering and Forgetting: (Non-)Motherhood and Immigration in Cécile Wajsbrot and Linda Lê'

28th January 2015, 12:00, ER206, Elvet Riverside II, Durham University

Cécile Wajsbrot and Linda Lê are part of what can be seen as a new trend in contemporary French literature: the reclaiming, through literature, of a desire for non-motherhood, in a context of (post)memory and immigration. L’Hydre de Lerne (2011), an autofictional text by Wajsbrot, a French Jewish writer of Polish origins, and A l’Enfant que je n’aurai pas (2011), a short autobiographical text by Linda Lê, who emigrated to France from Vietnam in the 1970’s, both contribute to redefining the notion of “motherhood” by questioning its very foundations and motifs, and by expressing the need to use literature as a means to expose these writers’ needs not to procreate.

These texts can be read as manifestos, which are, in both cases, complicated by issues of memory and postmemory (which, according to Marianne Hirsch, consists in the transgenerational transmission of trauma and mainly characterizes the mother-daughter relationship). In Wajsbrot and Lê, the refusal of motherhood is closely linked to a rejection of the mother figure and of the mother tongue, which eventually amounts to a rejection of the burden of memory, of origins, and of trauma, whereby the rejection of motherhood is ultimately presented as a refusal to pass on. This paper will address the literary devices used in order to (re)en-gender memory through non-motherhood.

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