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Introduction—Explaining and Exploring the Dead or Absent Mother

Berit Astrom

Why are so many mothers in Disney films dead or missing? Why are there so few mothers in Shakespeare? Why are there so many dead mothers in Victorian novels? Variations of these questions are posed again and again, in popular media, blogs and other online conversations as well as in scholarly research, attesting to the existence of a recurring trope of dead or absent mothers. It is a commonplace that the concepts of mother and motherhood occupy a central place in Western culture, which makes the dead/absent mother-trope all the more intriguing. What function does it fulfil? What meanings does it take on? What questions does it enable narratives to raise? These are some of the questions that underpin this anthology. The contributors, studying narratives that range widely in terms of period, genre as well as medium, analyze the trope from a broad variety of perspectives. In doing so, they demonstrate that the dead/absent mother-trope is a transhistorical phenomenon, a cultural conversation about mothers, mothering and motherhood that transcends historical and generic divisions.

B. Astrom (*)

Department of Language Studies, Umea University, Umea, Sweden e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017

B. Astrom (ed.), The Absent Mother in the Cultural Imagination, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-49037-3_1

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