21st Century Literature discussion

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Question of the Week > Most Memorable Maternal/Mother Figures in 21st Literature? (5/10/20)

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message 1: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
Here in the states we celebrated Mother's Day yesterday. What are some of the most memorable maternal or mother figures you remember thus far from 21st century literature? What made/makes them memorable to you? Do they reflect any changing definitions of motherhood?


message 2: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments The Mere Wife has quite the mother. I'm reading it now and enjoying it.

Did everyone know except me that exactly the same word is used in the original Beowulf poem to describe Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's mother? 'aglæca' ... translated by Tolkien and others into modern english as "hero" when it's Beowulf, and "monster" when it's Grendel, and "hag" when it's Grendel's mom...SAME WORD. I learned this only today in a zesty interview with the author on NPR. She has thought about this.


message 3: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2104 comments Mod
Interesting question, I'm looking forward to the responses. The first one that came to my mind was Molly Weasley from Harry Potter. Love her, but she's definitely the traditional 'mom'; chin-up and doing everything for her family. Most examples I can think of are in the same, conservative vein. A notable exception is We Need to Talk About Kevin, with a character who questions almost every aspect of what is expected of women to be considered a good mother.


message 4: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
The Mere Wife and We Need to Talk about Kevin were the first two that came to my mind, as well. Next up was probably Essun from NK Jemisin's Broken Earth series. Maybe Dept. of Speculation and Ducks, Newburyport--both of which have maternal narrators that tackle, in unique ways, motherhood, caretaking, juggling work/career, etc.


message 5: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 68 comments Rachel Cusk, in fictional and non-fictional forms!


message 6: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments I really loved all of the below, but they are all in the category of "Bad Mother Books"-- which I think actually might be a thing in publishing, just now:

After Birth by Elisa Albert
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Sealed by Naomi Booth
Delicious Foods by James Hanaham


message 7: by Nadine in California (last edited May 19, 2020 07:16PM) (new)

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 431 comments The mother in A Fairly Good Time by Mavis Gallant is hilariously awful. I don't know how I stumbled upon this book, mid 20th century women authors are like a black hole in my reading. It's a gem that I hate to see forgotten - so here's my review.


message 8: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
lark wrote: "Did everyone know except me that exactly the same word is used in the original Beowulf poem to describe Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's mother? 'aglæca' ... translated by Tolkien and others into modern english as "hero" when it's Beowulf, and "monster" when it's Grendel, and "hag" when it's Grendel's mom...SAME WORD..."

Somehow I didn't fully register your whole post, Lark (or, I saw only the first line on my phone). That's crazy! And quite a feat of translation.


message 9: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 68 comments I did not know that... does anyone have the Heaney on hand to see how he translated it?


message 10: by lark (last edited May 20, 2020 08:06AM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 210 comments I realized later that my comment on Beowulf doesn’t make much sense within the context of this thread, without prior knowledge that The Mere Wife is a reinterpretation of Grendel’s mother.


message 11: by Marc (last edited May 20, 2020 07:43AM) (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
Don't have the Heaney on hand, but I have put off a significant part of my work day by nerding out on this...

Came across:
- A 60 pg thesis:
The Schizophrenic Warrior: Exploring Aglæca in the Old English Corpus by Danielle Robinson
- Beoshewulf blog post: Demonising the Demon: The Power of Translation
- BeowulfTranslations.net


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