Reading Motherhood is also a course at Georgetown University. Here's our syllabus, including the titles of readings and media that guide our class.
409 New North
Email: email@example.com Office phone: 687-7575 Office Hours: M 2-4:30 pm or by appointment
416 New North
Office phone: 687-7418
Office Hours: Mondays, 1:30-2:30; Weds., 2-3:30; or by appointment
Motherhood is deemed one of the most ‘natural’ experiences binding women together across time and space. But as feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich famously argued in her landmark work Of Woman Born, it is also a social institution with its own history and ideology.
Our course examines this institution as a shifting, historically and culturally specific phenomenon given particularly potent life in cultural representations: that is, the literature, film, television, advertising, video, comics, etc. that surround us in everyday life. Analyzing foundational criticism and theory about motherhood alongside a variety of predominantly U.S. cultural texts—from I Love Lucy, Imitation of Life, and Sylvia Plath’s poetry to Roseanne, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Elisa Albert’s After Birth to the recent documentary Google Baby—we explore how differing notions of motherhood are constructed, contested, negotiated.
One premise of the course is that motherhood cannot be universalized as an experience or as a right (not all women are urged or even permitted to mother); it is not innate or necessarily a biological relation. And while the syllabus focuses largely on the U.S., its structure will address how western and non-western political relations are increasingly embedded in global circuits of motherhood via transnational adoption, surrogacy, and reproductive technologies.
In this course, as the above description establishes, you can expect to gain a nuanced understanding of motherhood that goes far beyond commonsensical notions of a personal experience that is at once unique and universal. You will learn:
How to conceptualize motherhood as an ideological and cultural construction;
How to analyze a variety of cultural representations of motherhood—from both ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture--within their historical contexts;
How such representations help to shape not only our own visions of ‘real’ motherhood but also laws and business practices with differential impacts on different groups of women
How motherhood as ideology and cultural image can be resisted by both consumers/readers/viewers and writers/filmmakers/artists
How motherhood in the U.S. is inextricably linked to motherhood abroad—to economic and cultural globalization
How to write about motherhood in diverse assignments that blend, as well as distinguish between, the academic and the personal
Required Texts (all should be available online or at the GU Bookstore):
Elisa Albert, After Birth Toni Morrison, Beloved
Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born
Schedule of Assignments
W, Jan 8 Introduction to Course
Setting the Stage: Thinking about Contemporary Motherhood
M Jan 13 Kinzer, “Introduction: Thinking and Going About Mothering in the Third Wave”
Caviness, “What Black Moms Know”
Noonan, “The Globalization of Love: Transnational Adoption and…”
Haider, “I Am a Trans Mother—Deal With it” (in Canvas Pages)
W Jan 15 Badruddoja, “The Fantasy of Normative Motherhood”
Cusk, “Lily Bart’s Baby”
Erdrich, from The Blue Jay’s Dance
Castillo, “Women Don’t Riot”
M Jan 20 MLK HOLIDAY
W Jan 22 Collins, "Shifting the Center: Race, Class and
Feminist Theorizing about Motherhood"
Silva, “Representing and Transforming Latina/Chicana Mothering”
Duncan and Wong, “Mothering in East Asian Communities”
*JOURNAL 1 DUE
M Jan 27 Alice Walker, “One Child of One’s Own”
Rebecca Walker, from Baby Love
Gonzalez-Martinez, “Dutiful Hijas”
W Jan 29 Richards, “The Drive to Procreate”
Vinson, “The Role of the Teen Mother in Narratives of Teenage Pregnancy”
** Sun. Feb. 2nd: Screening of documentary film Google Baby: time & place TBA; Jordan-Young, “Introduction” to Critical Conceptions….
M Feb 3 Discuss Google Baby
*JOURNAL 2 DUE
Post-World War II Constructions of Motherhood
W Feb 5 Haralovich, "Sitcoms and Suburbs: Positioning the 1950s Homemaker"
DeMarneffe, “The ‘Problem’ of Maternal Desire”
M Feb 10 I Love Lucy episodes: “Lucy Goes to the Hospital”
“Lucy Hires a Maid”