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‘Totetaco’ : the mother–child dyad and the pre-conceptual self in Elsa Morante's La Storia and Aracoeli.

Wehling-Giorgi, Katrin (2013) '‘Totetaco’ : the mother–child dyad and the pre-conceptual self in Elsa Morante's La Storia and Aracoeli.', Forum for modern languages studies., 49 (2). pp. 192-200.


The article provides a close reading of the mother–son relationship in Elsa Morante's La Storia (1974) and Aracoeli (1982). While previous critics have stressed the antithetical nature of the two Morantian portrayals of motherhood and the filial relationship, I argue that the author's account of early childhood as a pre-conceptual realm which resists totalizing notions of identity and language suggests a previously under-explored continuity between the two novels. A Kristevan interpretative framework proves useful for an investigation into the role of the maternal in the early formation of the self and the adoption of semiotic, pre-verbal forms of expression. While Ida's and Aracoeli's eventual descent into madness and Useppe's premature death constitute failed attempts at constituting a coherent notion of selfhood outside the bounds of the mother–child relationship, I conclude that Manuele's ultimate ‘abjection’ of the mother signals an unprecedented step in Morante's discourse on subjectivity.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Special Issue on Writing Childhood in Postwar Women's Writing
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Forum for Modern Language Studies following peer review. The version of record [Wehling-Giorgi, Katrin (2013). ‘Totetaco’ the Mother–Child Dyad and the Pre-Conceptual Self in Elsa Morante's La Storia and Aracoeli. Forum for Modern Languages Studies 49(2): 192-200 is available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:25 October 2016
Date of first online publication:27 January 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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