Stendhal, George Sand, Rachilde, Georges Bataille: Forgoing the patronym, with its weight of meaning, these modern French writers renamed themselves in their work. Their use of pseudonyms, as Maryline Lukacher demonstrates in this provocative study, is part of a process to subvert the name of the father and explore the suppressed relation to the figure of the mother. Combining psychoanalytic criticism, feminist theory, and literary analysis, Maternal Fictions offers a complex psychological portrait of these writers who managed at once to challenge patriarchal authority and at the same time attempt to return to the maternal.
Through readings of Armance, Le Rouge et le noir, La Vie de Henry Brulard, and Les Cenci, Lukacher exposes Stendhal's preoccupation with his dead mother, who is obsessively retrieved throughout his work. George Sand's identity is, in effect, divided between two mothers, her biological mother and her grandmother, and in Histoire de ma vie, Indiana, and Mauprat, we see the writer's efforts to break the impasse created by this divided identity. In the extraordinary but too little known work of Rachilde (Marguerite Eymery), Lukacher finds the maternal figure identified as the secret inner force of patriarchal oppression. This resistance to feminism continues in the pseudonymous work of Georges Bataille. In Ma mère, Le coupable, and L’Expérience intérieure Lukacher traces Bataille’s representation of the mother as a menacing, ever subversive figure who threatens basic social configurations.
Maternal Fictions establishes a new pseudonymous genealogy in modern French writing that will inform and advance our understanding of the act of self-creation that occurs in fiction.