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Czech mothers: gender and nation in Czech women’s literature

Nahodilová, J.; (2011) Czech mothers: gender and nation in Czech women’s literature. Masters thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis examines the representation of motherhood in Czech women's writing from the 1890s to the beginning of the twenty-first century. The main conclusion is that the perception of motherhood can only be understood within the context of a complex relationship between the concept of nation and gender. The concept of motherhood is selected in order to give the thesis a precise focus on a role which is central to the understanding of female gender identity. The main literary sources which are considered contain a prominent mother figure in the text and they fall into two distinct historical sections. Works published from the 1890s to the 1940s provide a background for a discussion of a contemporary fiction published since 1989. I argue that there are complex forms of overlap between these periods, but an identifiable shift in the general representation of motherhood is nevertheless evident. The theoretical approach which grounds the analysis of the literature is post-Lacanian psychoanalysis as this allows for the consideration of both cultural and unconscious dimensions in the formation of identity. The thesis uses this theoretical approach as a means of analysing the texts with a view to revealing the shifting perceptions of motherhood embodied therein. I claim that the representation of motherhood in literature reflects changing images of motherhood in wider Czech culture, and support this with empirical research from the social sciences. The thesis concludes that the Czech cult of mother as an ideal figure and a guardian of moral values with its long and generally stable historical tradition continues to dominate both the representations of mothers in women's writing and attitudes towards motherhood in today's Czech society. This traditional motherhood ideal is nevertheless being eroded in light of the absence or prominent nationalist sentiment and against the backdrop of a broad series of socio-economic and cultural shifts.

Type:Thesis (Masters)
Title:Czech mothers: gender and nation in Czech women’s literature
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > SSEES

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