The Mother's HandsDesire, Fantasy and the Inheritance of the Maternal
The Mother's Hands
Desire, Fantasy and the Inheritance of the Maternal
Translated by Alice Kilgarriff
The social changes of the last century have fundamentally transformed motherhood. From a patriarchal society which reduced women almost entirely to their maternal function, new social and sexual freedoms mean that motherhood is no longer the sole destiny of women. At the same time, scientific advances mean that children can now be born without the presence of a conventional mother. How then should we view motherhood today?

In this book, the bestselling author and psychoanalyst Massimo Recalcati argues that “being a mother” is a huge challenge for every woman because it involves balancing motherhood against femininity. Questioning the belief that a mother’s love is unconditional, he observes that mothers may even resent their children, as a result of unresolved conflicts between different dimensions of love, and of external pressures to relinquish self-love. Drawing on the lessons of psychoanalysis, Recalcati argues that it is precisely in these competing demands that motherhood fulfils its function: only if the mother is “not-all-mother” can a child experience the absence that makes it possible for them to access the symbolic and cultural world.

Recalcati cuts through clichés and conventional wisdom to offer a fresh perspective on the changing nature and conflicting demands of motherhood today. An international bestseller, this book will appeal to a wide general readership, as well as to students and scholars of gender studies, psychoanalysis, psychology and sociology.
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  • April 2019
  • 200 pages
  • 138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509531677
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9781509531684
  • Open eBook $22.95
  • 9781509531707
Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Mother’s Desire
  • The Hands; The Wait; The Face; Lalangue; The Breast; Absence; Desire; Paranoia; The Name; Care; Transcendence
  • 2. The Mother’s Shadow
  • The Two Mothers and Solomon’s Ruling; Wanting To Have a Child; Maternal Anxiety; The Child As Object; The Mother’s Refusal; Primary Perversion; The Mother’s Enjoyment; Ange Duroc; The Mother-As-Crocodile; The Narcissistic Mother; A Fugitive Mother;
  • The Medea Complex; Mommy
  • 3. The Mother’s Inheritance
  • Maternal Power; The Maternal Sentence; Maternal Inheritance; The Dead Mother; Mother and Daughter; Failure of Inheritance; Ravage; Violence and Resignation; The Mother’s Solitude; A Successful Inheritance
  • Epilogue: Being Fair To The Mother
  • Notes
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‘This book from one of Italy’s most popular public intellectuals turns our conventional understanding of motherly love on its head, encouraging a complete rethink of what motherhood means today. Written with Recalcati’s typical flair and sagacity, it will be of interest to a very wide readership.’
Dany Nobus, Brunel University, London

‘In this poetic and thought-provoking book, Massimo Recalcati explores the many images of the mother to be found in both psychoanalysis and popular culture, urging a questioning of the prejudices and cliches that are so often taken for granted. Without downplaying the complexity and ambivalences of the mother-child relation, he emphasises the positive, life-giving transmission of the mother, and shows us with clarity and elegance the many levels at which this operates.’
Darian Leader, Psychoanalyst, Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research
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