chapter  8
13 Pages

Matrilineal narratives revisited

ByTess Cosslett

This chapter began in 1993, at a conference on Autobiography and Gender at Nijmegen. For that meeting, I wrote an open-ended, unfinished piece on ‘matrilineal narratives’ – attempts by some feminist autobiographers to ‘reclaim’ or ‘recover’ the mother’s subjectivity by writing their mothers’ stories, in conjunction with their own. In that paper, I noticed that these writers were often very ready to attribute thoughts and feelings to their mothers, to speak for them, but not for their daughters (where daughters did appear in the narrative). The daughter, I thought then, represented unknown potential, the unshaped future – it would be intrusive and limiting to try to write her thoughts, to inhabit her consciousness. This idea was partly confirmed at the conference, when Karen Klitgaard Povlsen (1993) performed an impressive Lacanian reading of the silencing of the daughter by the mother’s narrative in the writing of Friederike Brun, a mother who insisted on narrating her daughter’s life.