Archaic mother

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Archaic mother (primal mother or Ur-mutter) is the mother of earliest infancy, whose continuing influence is traced in psychoanalysis, and whose (repressed) presence is considered to underlie the horror film.

In psychoanalysis[edit]

Sigmund Freud recognised in his writings the power of the archaic mother as "first nourisher and first seducer",[1] and the image of the archaic mother as seductress became widespread in psychoanalysis in his wake.[2] Jung too was absorbed in his writings by the concept of the archaic mother,[3] and his followers have warned of the danger of that imago being re-activated in the transference by the female therapist.[4] For Jacques Lacan, the primitive, untrammelled power of the archaic mother could only be contained by the emergence and consolidation of the paternal metaphor.[5]

Feminist analysts like Luce Irigaray have subsequently attempted to reclaim the archaic mother as an empowering force for female identity. Sceptics, however, have accepted Julia Kristeva's warning about the Utopian, indeed narcissistic perils of attempting to circumvent society, and the cultural sphere, by regressing to a phantasisised merger with the archaic, undifferentiated mother.[6] Kristeva also considered the Jungian approach as a "dead end with its archetypal configurations of libidinal substance taken out of the realm of sexuality and placed in bondage to the archaic mother".[7] Artist and psychoanalyst-theorist Bracha L. Ettinger disagrees with Kriseteva's views that the archaic mother, starting with the pregnant mother, represents psychotic undifferentiation. In Ettinger's view the rejection of the archaic mother is culturally instituted by a patriarchal and phallic society.[8] She addresses the archaic mother as the major subjectivising agency for the infant in a relations that she defines as matrixial, where psychic differentiation coincides with co-emergence. According to Ettinger the archaic m/Other of the matrixisl (matricial) feminine-maternal sphere in the archaic encounter-event is the feminine source of humanized ethics and aesthetics.[9][10][11][12]

In the arts[edit]

  • Film theory has emphasised the role of the archaic mother as monstrous figure in the horror film,[13] more terrifying and less uncontained than the phallic mother in her undifferentiated grotesqueness.[14]
  • A similar figure appears as the 'black queen' in romances such as The Fairie Queene, and as the witch of folklore.[15]
  • Sylvia Plath, under the influence of Jung, wrote what she called a "diatribe against the Dark Mother. The Mummy. Mother of Shadows...".[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reed, Gail S.; Devine, Howard B., eds. (2015). On Freud's "Screen Memories". London: Karnac. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-78220-055-0.
  2. ^ Fiorini, Leticia G.; Rose, Graciela Abelin-Sas, eds. (2010). On Freud's "femininity". London: Karnac. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-85575-701-1.
  3. ^ Covington, Coline; Wharton, Barbara, eds. (2015) [2003]. Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-415-81748-6.
  4. ^ Young-Eisendrath, Polly; Dawson, Terence, eds. (1997). The Cambridge Companion to Jung. Cambridge University Press. p. 236. ISBN 0-521-47309-8.
  5. ^ Shepherdson, Charles (2000). Vital Signs: Nature, Culture, Psychoanalysis. Routledge. p. 72. ISBN 0-415-90879-5.
  6. ^ Whitfield, Margaret (2014). Luce Irigaray: Philosophy in the Feminine. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-05968-8.
  7. ^ Kristeva, Julia (1980). Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Columbia University Press. p. 276. ISBN 0-231-04806-8.
  8. ^ Ettinger, Bracha L. (2006). The Matrixial Borderspace. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0816635870.
  9. ^ Ettinger, Bracha L., Régard et éspace-de-bord matrixiels. Brussels: La Lettre Volée, 1999.
  10. ^ Ettinger, Bracha L., The Matrixial Borderspace. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006
  11. ^ Ettinger, Bracha L., Proto-etica matricial. Translated to Spanish and Introduced by Julian Gutierrez Albilla (Gedisa 2019)
  12. ^ Ettinger, Bracha L., Matrixial Subjectivity, Aesthetics, Ethics, edited by Griselda Pollock. Vol 1:1990-2000 (Palgrave Macmillan 2020).
  13. ^ Creed, Barbara (2012) [1993]. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. Routledge. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-415-05258-0.
  14. ^ Starks, Lisa S.; Lehmann, Courtney, eds. (2002). The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory. London: Associated University Press. p. 139. ISBN 0-8386-3939-9.
  15. ^ Frye, Northrop (1971) [1957]. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton University Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-691-01298-9.
  16. ^ Britzolakis, Christina (1999). Sylvia Plath and the Theatre of Mourning. Clarendon. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-1981-8373-0.

External links[edit]