‘Totetaco’: The Mother–Child Dyad and the Pre-Conceptual Self in Elsa Morante's La Storia and Aracoeli

Wehling-Giorgi, Katrin
April 2013
Forum for Modern Language Studies;Apr2013, Vol. 49 Issue 2, p192
Academic Journal
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.


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