The Motherhood in post-1968 European Literature Network is something I have been thinking about for some years. As much feminist work has shown, motherhood is best treated in an interdisciplinary environment. Indeed, scholars of literature commonly draw on feminist work from sociology, psychology, psychoanalysis, politics, social policy, philosophy, and so on, to inform their readings of representations and narratives of mothering in literary texts. However, although this cross-fertilisation does sometimes happen in the reverse, it is not quite so usual. Like me though, my colleagues here at the cross-cultural Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women’s Writing at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London, believe that motherhood in literature – and in women’s writing in particular – has plenty to offer other disciplines, and so we are delighted to have received support from the Arts & Humanities Research Council to develop this Network. We are also really encouraged to have received so much positive interest already from researchers from many different disciplines. As I explained in my introduction to the first workshop in May 2012, our impetus for this work is the climate of changing family demographics in Europe – as a consequence of changing family patterns, new reproductive technologies, mass migration and globalisation, hybridisation of identities, the economic crisis, and high unemployment figures – which are creating new experiences, challenges and opportunities for women as mothers, and new issues and challenges for feminisms and feminist scholars and researchers of motherhood and the family. We think literature can contribute useful insights in such a climate.
Effective interdisciplinary work is exciting but difficult. Even with the very best of intentions and will, problems and tensions arise to do with individual disciplinary methodologies, different understandings of the nature of evidence, discipline-specific vocabulary and terminology, and this can also be the case in cross-cultural and comparative discussions. Across the Network workshops, and the conference in October 2013, we aim to make all sessions interdisciplinary, so that papers on literature come into direct dialogue with those from other disciplines, and to try to deal with any attendant problems as we go along.
We are also including featured texts, discussion of passages from literature, author readings, and I plan to start a virtual reading group on this blog.