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Phenomenologies of the StrangerBetween Hostility and Hospitality$
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Richard Kearney and Kascha Semonovitch

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823234615

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823234615.001.0001

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The Uncanny Strangeness of Maternal Election

The Uncanny Strangeness of Maternal Election

Levinas and Kristeva on Parental Passion

(p.196) 11 The Uncanny Strangeness of Maternal Election
Phenomenologies of the Stranger



Fordham University Press

What is both more familiar and strange than the birth of a child? What is more uncanny? This chapter points to psychoanalysis and to Emmanuel Levinas as resources for describing children in birth as strangers and the symptomatic human reaction. Using Levinas's notion of paternal election and Julia Kristeva's notion of maternal passion, this chapter discusses the uncanny retroactive choice to have this particular child. Both Levinas and Kristeva suggest alternatives to the Freudian Oedipal model of child-parent relations. Yet, their discussions complement each other not only because Levinas focuses on paternity and Kristeva on maternity but also and moreover because for Levinas paternity points to an “absolute future” or “infinite time,” while for Kristeva maternity points to the “lost time” of a “time before time.” This chapter demonstrates how the Stranger transcends our desire to possess and control existence.

Keywords:   Emmanuel Levinas, Julia Kristeva, maternal passion, paternal election, child, uncanny, psychoanalysis, Stranger, maternity, paternity

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