Quebec Studies

From Shattered Reflections to Female Bonding: Mirroring in Marie-Claire Blais's Visions D'Anna

Quebec Studies (1984), 2, (1), 94–104.

Abstract

FROM SHATTERED REFLECTIONS TO FEMALE BONDING: MIRRORING IN MARIE-CLAIRE BLAIS'S VISIONS D'ANNA Paula Gilbert Lews In her well known and widely read text, The Reproduction of Mothering, Nancy Chodorow postulates that mothering is a psychologically-based role consisting of the experience of self in relation to one's child or children. Women's capacities for mothering, according to Chodorow, have been internalized since they have been psychologically prepared for this role by other women who have mothered them. This internalization, however, can often involve distortions, defenses, and trans­ formations and, in addition, can be mediated by fantasy and conflict. Such reactions are particularly complex when a woman mothers a girl because, in Chodorow's view, mothers experience daughters as more continuous with themselves, in a semisymbiotic relationship that is more narcissistic than any rapport with a son. Daughters in turn, mothered by someone of the same gender, also see themselves as more fused with and less separate or differentiated from their mothers than do sons. It is Chodo­ row's thesis that, as a result of this situation, girls possess more permeable, flexible, and even confused ego boundaries, while they continue to define themselves more in relation to others than do boys. Never fully repressing nor relinquishing their pre-oedipal and oedipal attachment to the mother, girls grow up struggling for separation but preoccupied with external re­ lationships and internalizing others' needs and feelings as their own. Masculine identification is, in short, predominantly cul­ tural and differential; female identification is predominantly parental/maternal and, therefore, relational. Dorothy Dinnerstein defines this mother/daughter rela­ tionship in similar terms: every " I " emerges in relation to an "It," with the mother first experienced as this "It." A girl, identifying with this first parent who never fully loses her "It"ness, continues to see herself and other females as less of an 1 2

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Lewis, Paula