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Lost children and imaginary mothers in Sonya Hartnett's "Of a Boy"

Muller, Vivienne (2008) Lost children and imaginary mothers in Sonya Hartnett's "Of a Boy". Hecate, 34(1), pp. 159-174.

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Abstract

In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva writes about lost children. These are what she calls ‘dejects’, who, in the psychodrama of subject formation, fail to fully absent the body of the mother, to accept the Law of the Father and the Symbolic, and subsequently to establish ‘clear boundaries which constitute the object-world for normal subjects’. Dejects are ‘strays’ looking for a place to belong, a place that is bound up with the Imaginary mother of the pre-Oedipal period. Kristeva’s sketch of the deject as one who is unable to negotiate a proper path to the Symbolic is useful to a reading of Hartnett’s Of A Boy (2002) , a novel that also deals with lost children and imaginary mothers. However in its portrayal of children who are doomed to never achieve adulthood, Of A Boy enacts a haunting retrieval of the pre-Oedipal from the dark side of phallocentric representation, privileging the semiotic (Kristeva’s concept) and the maternal as necessary disruptive checks on a patriarchal Symbolic Order. In reading the narrative in this way, this essay does not seek to foreclose on other interpretations which may more fully illuminate the material and historical contexts in which Hartnett’s stories of abandoned and lost mothers and children are activated. Rather by examining the text using an aspect of psychoanalytic literary criticism, this essay acknowledges the centrality of the psycho-social to Harnett’s delineation of the child subject in her narrative projects.

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ID Code: 19487
Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: mothers, psychoanalytic theory, Sonya Harnett, Lost children, Lacan
ISSN: 0311-4198
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) (200502)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Literary Theory (200525)
Divisions: Current > Schools > Creative Writing & Literary Studies
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 please consult the author.
Deposited On: 08 Apr 2009 13:49
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 23:52

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