Narrative and Psychoanalytic Approaches to Mother Daughter Relationships in Literature
There are several different types of narrative forms utilized by authors in texts and short stories to describe mother daughter relationships. Traditional forms include personal experience narratives where characters are traditionally well defined with personalities and unique identities.
The extent to which modern authors have employed narrative techniques to create true to life characters has been well researched throughout history. The aim of this study is to examine mother daughter relationships from not only a narrative perspective but also a psychoanalytic approach, to determine the extent to which psychoanalytic perspectives and theories may be applied to the mother daughter bond presented in many well-known literary works. The study aims to fill a gap in the research regarding mother daughter relationships currently available.
To that extent, the short stories of Katherine Mansfield will be compared to two novels created by Jamaica Kincaid, in order to offer a wide understanding of narrative technique employed in shorter and longer works.
Background/Purpose of Study
This study aims to examine mother daughter relationships from a narrative and psychoanalytic perspective in the works of two noted authors. I feel this examination will be useful in understanding mother daughter relationships in literary works from a new perspective. I intend to investigate to what extend psychoanalytic theories can be applied to literary works, and evaluate how narrative forms are utilized in literary works describing mother daughter relationships to determine whether or not the authors effectively strengthen and define their characters via use of specific techniques.
The use of personal voice is often employed by writers to convince the reader that the situation at hand is real. Two authors will be examined for purposes of this study, Katherine Mansfield and Jamaica Kincaid, both of whom employ several different narrative techniques in the process of examining mother daughter relationships, including the use of personal voice.
In many cases the writer invests something of themselves in the work to convince the reader of the authenticity of the characters. This is certainly the case in autobiographical works including fictional works derived from true to life situations. Jamaica Kincaid is an exemplary model of an author who utilizes autobiographical techniques among others to define her characters.
Katherine Mansfield is well-known for minimizing drama in her works while simultaneously raising psychological insight and perspective. Her techniques have been described in many ways. In her more recent works O'Sullivan points out that she employs a variety of techniques to build her plots up toward an epiphany in a plunging manner, as evidenced in Bliss and Daughters. Mansfield includes "indirections, shifts of perspective, overlapping and modulations of time and imprecision's of mood and randomness" (O'Sullivan, 1975) to engage the reader.
Helmut Bonheim confirms this technique of shifting modes by saying that a description can have many different modes imbedded within, including setting, manner of speaking and metaphors. This seems particularly valid when applied to Mansfield's works. Bonheim suggests however that authors such as Mansfield shift from more autobiographical description and authorial discussion to use of dynamic mode of speech and language. This may be evidenced by Mansfield's mother figure Linda who uses language to express the attitude that she no longer loves her children and their attitudes.
I will attempt to present a psychoanalytic explanation for the narrative forms presented in each of the authors works examined. To that extend the theories of Montrelay in particular will be examined, particularly her "Inquiry into femininity" and her case study of Louise in "How Lacan's Ideas are Used in Clinical Practice."
The psychoanalytic notions of femininity are strongly evidence in Kincaid's works, particularly as she examines the burgeoning growth of young women in a predominately male oriented society. Kincaid is perhaps one of the strongest and well-known writers for expounding upon feminist idealisms.
Jamaica Kincaid reflects on the mother daughter relationship by discussing female identity as shaped by the male dominated world in which people live. She explores many themes including female bonding. Among the works that explore mother daughter relationships produced by Kincaid include Annie John and Lucy. These works in particular will be examined for purposes of this study.