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The Mother's Hands: Desire, Fantasy and the Inheritance of the Maternal



The Mother's Hands: Desire, Fantasy and the Inheritance of the Maternal

Massimo Recalcati, Alice Kilgarriff (Translator)

ISBN: 978-1-509-53170-7 June 2019 Polity 200 Pages



In this book the bestselling author and psychoanalyst Massimo Recalcati offers a fundamental re-examination of what ‘being a mother’ means today, in a world where new social and sexual freedoms mean that motherhood is no longer the sole destiny of women. Questioning the belief that a mother’s love is natural and unconditional, he paints a more complex and troubling picture of the mother–child relationship, observing that mothers may even resent their children as a result of unresolved conflicts between different dimensions of love. The mother’s hands not only nurture but can also potentially harm. Recalcati argues that it is precisely in these competing demands that motherhood fulfils its function: only if the mother is ‘not-all-mother’ can a child experience the absence that enables it to access the symbolic and cultural world.

Recalcati cuts through conventional wisdom to offer a fresh perspective on the changing nature of motherhood today. An international bestseller, this book will appeal to a wide general readership, as well as to students and scholars of gender studies, psychoanalysis and related disciplines.

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Mother’s Desire
  • The Hands; The Wait; The Face; Lalangue; The Breast; Absence; Desire; Paranoia; The Name; Care; Transcendence
  • 2. The Mother’s Shadow
  • The Two Mothers and Solomon’s Ruling; Wanting To Have a Child; Maternal Anxiety; The Child As Object; The Mother’s Refusal; Primary Perversion; The Mother’s Enjoyment; Ange Duroc; The Mother-As-Crocodile; The Narcissistic Mother; A Fugitive Mother;
  • The Medea Complex; Mommy
  • 3. The Mother’s Inheritance
  • Maternal Power; The Maternal Sentence; Maternal Inheritance; The Dead Mother; Mother and Daughter; Failure of Inheritance; Ravage; Violence and Resignation; The Mother’s Solitude; A Successful Inheritance
  • Epilogue: Being Fair To The Mother
  • Notes

‘This book from one of Italy’s most popular public intellectuals turns our conventional understanding of motherly love on its head, encouraging a complete rethink of what motherhood means today. Written with Recalcati’s typical flair and sagacity, it will be of interest to a very wide readership.’
Dany Nobus, Brunel University, London

‘In this poetic and thought-provoking book, Massimo Recalcati explores the many images of the mother to be found in both psychoanalysis and popular culture, urging a questioning of the prejudices and clichés that are so often taken for granted. Without downplaying the complexity and ambivalences of the mother–child relation, he emphasises the positive, life-giving transmission of the mother, and shows us with clarity and elegance the many levels at which this operates.’
Darian Leader, Psychoanalyst, Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research