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The Comics of Alison BechdelFrom the Outside In$
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Janine Utell

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781496825773

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496825773.001.0001

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Inchoate Kinship

Inchoate Kinship

Psychoanalytic Narrative and Queer Relationality in Are You My Mother?

Chapter:
(p.148) Inchoate Kinship
Source:
The Comics of Alison Bechdel
Author(s):

Tyler Bradway

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496825773.003.0011

To illuminate Bechdel’s inchoate kinship, this chapter turns to Are You My Mother?. Bechdel refuses to position Are You My Mother? as an Oedipal rival or heteronormative complement to Fun Home. In fact, neither text is compositionally “finished” within the narrative present of Are You My Mother?. Throughout the memoir, Bechdel struggles with articulating a framework for her life writing that does not recapitulate heteronormative logics of similitude based on sexual difference or Oedipal plots of exclusivity, which demand the substitution of the mother by another love object. This chapter contends that Bechdel turns to relational psychoanalysis, and D.W. Winnicott in particular, to develop a queerer narrative for kinship; in this narrative, the mother is not a taboo love object but an object to be used, played with, even affectively assaulted with anger and disappointment. Through this “mutual cathexis,” Bechdel is ultimately able to forge a relation with her mother that is not defined by their absolute similitude or radical difference. But more importantly, Are You My Mother? figures a queerer narrative for the psychoanalytic narration of kinship itself—a narrative in which the child’s and parent’s stories can exist in productive tension, even opposition, without being legitimated by or finally resolved in an external reality.

Keywords:   Are You My Mother?, D. W. Winnicott, Kinship, Life writing, Psychoanalysis

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