Beyond the bedroom : Motherhood in E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy

Upstone, Sara (2016) Beyond the bedroom : Motherhood in E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Frontiers : a Journal of Women Studies, 37(2), pp. 138-164. ISSN (print) 0160-9009

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Informed by psychoanalytic criticism, and rooted principally in deconstructive practice, this paper aims to add to the growing scholarship on EL James’s controversial trilogy by considering a significant and hitherto unexplored aspect of their engagement with female identity: that is, motherhood. I argue that while the novels can be seen to be positioned ambivalently in terms of sexual relationships, it is beyond the bedroom that the real violence of the texts resides. At the center of this is Ana’s own positioning as both literal and figurative mother. Ana’s mothering of Christian is in both Freudian and Lacanian terms essential to the success of their relationship. Reading James’s construction of motherhood through Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of the maternal ideal in his philosophy, it is possible to see James’s mother figures as incomplete renderings of the maternal ideal, who in fact evidence the mother instead as eternal mimic. However, this reading relies upon a poststructuralist practice than denies the largely conservative positioning of mothers in the texts. Overwhelmingly, James’s novels can be seen to contribute to the reproduction of the maternal ideal, a discourse that is being widely consumed and further reproduced via social media and fan fiction related to the books’ success.

Item Type: Article
Research Area: English language and literature
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (until 2017)
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (until 2017) > School of Humanities
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Depositing User: Sara Upstone
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2015 15:19
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2017 10:19

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