Australian Journal of French Studies

Deliberately Barren? The Rejection of Motherhood in Contemporary French Women's Life Writing

Australian Journal of French Studies (2015), 52, (1), 24–36.

Abstract

This article compares the representation of voluntary childlessness in two recent literary texts: Linda Lê's A l'enfant que je n'aurai pas (2011) and Jane Sautière's Nullipare (2008). It situates these texts within a socio-historic context in which, according to many commentators, discourses of motherhood are highly regulated. The article first discusses stereotypes of voluntarily childless women highlighted by sociological research. It proceeds to analyse the portrayal of these stereotypes in the literary texts, both of which are first-person narratives but which are not strictly autobiographical. The analysis focuses on the narrators' sustained reflection behind their decision not to procreate. By restoring voice to the non-mother and insisting that there should be no shame in this lifestyle, they proclaim a female identity that does not depend upon reproduction. Together, they defy the stereotypes of the heartless woman, the selfish woman, the career woman, the irresponsible woman, the unnatural woman or the incomplete woman and carve out a new space for the expression of female experience.

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Author details

Edwards, Natalie