French Literature, Women's Studies

Voicing Voluntary Childlessness published

Edwards cover«Voicing Voluntary Childlessness is a compelling, beautifully written and timely study of what it means to reject motherhood. Through careful analysis of the form and content of recent French-language literary works, Edwards shows how long-standing expectations of women, as well as the assumptions underlying them, are being challenged. This book makes an important contribution to research in contemporary literature, women’s writing, epistolary writing, French studies and cultural studies.»
(Professor Karin Schwerdtner, University of Western Ontario)
«This book is a careful yet forceful and provocative intervention into the (mine)field of childlessness. Edward meticulously analyses the creative ways in which women writers have resisted the pressure to equate motherhood and femininity. At times defiant or doubtful, humorous or melancholic, the texts presented in this book provide us with a new paradigm for the study of the volatile yet rarely explored topic of childlessness.»
(Professor Mireille Rosello, University of Amsterdam)
«A timely and insightful consideration of the increasing prevalence of voluntary childlessness as an authentic pathway for women. This sensitive and perceptive text offers close readings of first-person narratives of non-mothering in French against a rich background of historical and theoretical contextualization as well as considering their position within the genre of women’s life-writing. Without a doubt, Natalie Edwards’ study constitutes an important contribution to the field of literary motherhood studies by drawing our attention to a voice that is too often overlooked.»
(Dr Julie Rodgers, Maynooth University)
«Voicing Voluntary Childlessness presents a groundbreaking and genuinely fascinating look at women’s choices not to become mothers. Natalie Edwards shows how women writers living in France reshape multiple genres of self-expression in order to give voice to this widely misunderstood and understudied choice. She contextualizes her readings in rich and consequential theoretical and sociological research, and her critical intervention in psychoanalysis from the point of view of voluntarily childless women makes for essential reading.»
(Professor Erica Johnson, Pace University)

The decision to reject motherhood is the subject of several key works of literature in French since the new millennium. This book looks at first-person accounts of voluntary childlessness by women writing in French. The book explores how women narrate their decision not to mother, the issues that they face in doing so and the narrative techniques that they employ to justify their stories. It asks how these authors challenge stereotypes of the childless woman by claiming their own identity in narrative, publicly proclaiming their right to choose and writing a femininity that is not connected to motherhood.
Using feminist, sociological and psychoanalytic theories to interrogate nonmothering, this work is the first book-length study of narratives that counter this long-standing taboo. It brings together authors who stake out a new terrain, creating a textual space in which to take ownership of their childlessness and call for new understandings of female identity beyond maternity.

Available for purchase here.

Natalie Edwards is Senior Lecturer in French Studies and a member of the Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender at the University of Adelaide, Australia. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and specializes in contemporary French and Francophone literature, autobiography, gender studies and visual culture. She is the author of Shifting Subjects: Plural Subjectivity in Contemporary Francophone Women’s Autobiography (2011) and co-editor most recently of Framing French Culture: Photography and the Visual Arts (2015).

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