The Uncanny Strangeness of Maternal Election


in Phenomenologies of the Stranger

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234615
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240722 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

The Uncanny Strangeness of Maternal Election

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What is both more familiar and strange than the birth of a child? What is more uncanny? This chapter points to psychoanalysis and to Emmanuel Levinas as resources for describing children in birth as strangers and the symptomatic human reaction. Using Levinas's notion of paternal election and Julia Kristeva's notion of maternal passion, this chapter discusses the uncanny retroactive choice to have this particular child. Both Levinas and Kristeva suggest alternatives to the Freudian Oedipal model of child-parent relations. Yet, their discussions complement each other not only because Levinas focuses on paternity and Kristeva on maternity but also and moreover because for Levinas paternity points to an “absolute future” or “infinite time,” while for Kristeva maternity points to the “lost time” of a “time before time.” This chapter demonstrates how the Stranger transcends our desire to possess and control existence.

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; Julia Kristeva; maternal passion; paternal election; child; uncanny; psychoanalysis; Stranger; maternity; paternity

Chapter.  7081 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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