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When Cautionary Tales Goes Unheimlich: A Discussion of Lucy Clifford's 'The New Mother' (1882)
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4381-8331
2016 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Victorian writer Lucy Clifford’s short story “The New Mother” (1882) is as unsettling as it is hard to immediately classify. Is it a typical cautionary tale of the 19th century or a prime example of weird fiction avant la lettre? The children Blue-Eyes and Turkey are tricked by an enigmatic girl into behaving so badly that their loving mother threatens to abandon them, sending a monstrous new mother in her stead, with glass-eyes, claws and a wooden tail. When the children persist in their disobedience they find out that the threat is all too true. Their mother leaves them to their fate - and when night falls, the new mother arrives to the cottage. Terrified, the children flee into the surrounding forest where they live out the rest of their days, abandoned and afraid.

Long a largely forgotten story, “The New Mother” has been the subject of a critical reappraisal during the last decades. In their readings of the work, interpreters such as Alison Lurie and Anita Moss highlights what they view as the subversive nature of the work. There is, however, a harmonizing tendency common to these modern readings that makes them problematic: by trying to fully explain or reduce the bizarre elements of the story, these interpretations are not able to account for the fundamental strangeness of the work. Rather, this paper argues, it’s precisely the uncanny quality of Clifford’s tale that allows it to transcend its given historical context and generate new, unsettling meanings for modern readers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-65789OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-65789DiVA, id: diva2:1190528
Conference
The Uncanny in Language, Literature and Culture, Warsaw, Poland, September 30, 2016
Available from: 2018-03-14 Created: 2018-03-14 Last updated: 2018-03-20Bibliographically approved

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Klingberg, Per

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
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  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
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