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Addressing the other womanTextual correspondences in feminist art and writing$
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Kimberly Lamm

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526121264

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526121264.001.0001

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Rewriting maternal femininity in Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document

Rewriting maternal femininity in Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document

(p.186) 5 Rewriting maternal femininity in Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document
Addressing the other woman

Kimberly Lamm

Manchester University Press

The subject of chapter 5 is the installation Post-Partum Document (1973–79). The chapter traces how Mary Kelly’s engagement with the visual appearance of language became a tool to deconstruct idealised myths of maternal femininity. By taking material desires – so often pathologised – as her aesthetic subject, Kelly challenged white ideals of maternal femininity as an identity women naturally assume. Crucial to this challenge was the psychoanalytic argument that through pregnancy and the first months of infant care, women re-experience their psychic lives before their negative entry into the Oedipus Complex. Kelly shows that mining the feminine pre-Oedipal for its affective and aesthetic plenitude opens up the feminist possibility that women can do more than serve as the ground for patriarchal losses; they can actually compose their own forms of fetishisation, a ‘language’ capable of writing women’s desires into cultural visibility. Kelly draws upon the visual language of the hieroglyph to represent this fetishisation. And with elegant hieroglyphic forms, Post-Partum Document touches upon the legacies of British colonial history and its manifestations as metropolitan racism in the London of the 1970s. As Kelly demonstrates, this structural racism was consolidated through the naturalisation of maternal femininity that Post-Partum Document puts into question.

Keywords:   Maternal Femininity, Maternal Desires, Fetishisation, Feminine Pre-Oedipal, Hieroglyph, British Colonial History, Metropolitan Racism

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