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The Impossibility of Queering the Mother: New Sightings of the Virgin Mother in the ‘Secular’ State

Sherwood, Yvonne (2017) The Impossibility of Queering the Mother: New Sightings of the Virgin Mother in the ‘Secular’ State. In: Sherwood, Yvonne, ed. The Bible and Feminism: Remapping the Field. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-872261-8. (doi:10.1093/oso/9780198722618.003.0037)

Abstract

In this part autobiographical essay, I explore the social consequences of the rise of the so-called ‘tender years’ doctrine coinciding with the rise in divorce. I argue that this has led to increased gender apartheid around the figures of M-for-Mother and F-for-Father, and a new sanctification of the figure of the holy mother-and-child. I look at the inverse and complementary relations between M-for-Male and F-for Female and M-for-Mother and F-for-Father, and I argue (counterintuitively) that origins, mothers and fathers are queerer in ancient myths and the Bible than they are in contemporary semantics and law. The idea of mothering-as-caring is a recent etymological innovation, hatched in the nineteenth century for very particular reasons, and supported by a distinctly modern infrastructure of ‘home’, ‘child’ and the ‘nuclear family’ (again, very recent creations). Thus this new mother-and-child is and is not like the Virgin Mary, for she relies on modern ideologies that separate the aneconomic ‘home’ from the house (the material/economic infrastructure) and on wealthy economies that create ‘children’ through the emergence of schooling for all. I call for more expansive forms and new mythologies, which are desperately needed. I use strange old biblical texts (Solomon’s judgement; the trial of Abraham) to create unheimlich echoes for the so-called secular state and its strange constructions of the family; and I show how the Ten Commandments continue to influence family law.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/oso/9780198722618.003.0037
Uncontrolled keywords: mother; father; queer; the Virgin Mary; the judgement of Solomon; divorce; family law
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Religious Studies
Depositing User: Yvonne Sherwood
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2018 10:36 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 20:16 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/66055 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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