The Sex of Death and the Maternal Crypt

Elissa Marder

in The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780823240555
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240593 | DOI:
The Sex of Death and the Maternal Crypt

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This chapter examines how the concepts of death and mourning are gendered in the ancient world, in psychoanalytic theory, and in contemporary culture. It investigates the question of sexual difference by looking at it through the ways in which death itself is marked as either masculine or feminine. The chapter argues that Freud has two very different models for the concept of death within the psyche: one is marked as masculine, and is related to castration; the other is marked as feminine/maternal and is associated with the uncanny, mechanical repetition, and literature. The chapter also explores how the maternal function conjures up anxieties about the sex of death through an analysis of a cultural case history of a shocking news story about a woman who denies her pregnancy, then murders her babies, and then preserves them in the freezer in the kitchen of her home.

Keywords: mourning; freezer; Véronique Courjault; denial of pregnancy; animal phobias; Totem and Taboo; Three Caskets; crypt; Freud; Nicole Loraux

Chapter.  7428 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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