Rachel Cusk has written two memoirs about the upheaval she experienced during the transition to motherhood and the subsequent dissolution of her marriage. Hailed by many as honest and truthful, they were so severely censured by some that Cusk was unable to write for a period of time. Then, over the last five years, she produced a trilogy of novels widely praised as an important innovation in the writing of fiction. This course will explore Cusk’s memoirs and recent fiction in two parts.
I - The psychic and ethical complexity of motherhood
The first part will explore and evaluate Cusk’s work in relation to certain claims about mothering, including: Despite decades of criticism of patriarchal structures, our culture still promotes a view of mothering that conspires to repress the inner lives of women by imposing upon them impossible demands. We have not yet set aside our idealized, and tyrannical, belief that mothers have a natural capacity and desire to attend to the needs of their children in ways that are absolutely selfless and perfectly responsive. We do not sufficiently appreciate the social dislocation, emotional ambivalence, and moral conflict often associated with the transition to motherhood and the compromise, sacrifice, and vulnerability it frequently entails.
The course is divided into two parts, each of which can be taken on its own.