English, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-24-2015


Hobza, Mitchell Christopher. "‘I am not your justification for existence:’ Mourning, Fascism, Feminism and the Amputation of Mothers and Daughters in Atwood, Ziervogel, and Ozick." MA Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2015. Print.


A THESIS presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Amelia María de la Luz Montes. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015 Mitchell Christopher Hobza


This thesis examines the complexities of mother-daughter relationships in twentieth-century women’s literature that includes themes about fascism and totalitarianism. Of central concern is how mothers and daughters are separated, both physically and psychically, in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Meike Ziervogel’s Magda and Cynthia Ozick’s The Shawl. Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born provides the theoretical framework for considering maternity and the institution of motherhood. These separations occur through two modes: physical separation by political force; and psychical separation through ideological difference and what Rich terms as “Matrophobia.” The physical separation is analyzed through a synthesis of Rich’s theory and historical analysis of Nazi policy on maternity. The psychical separation occurs through the mothers attempts to transmit ideologies (fascism, feminism and classism) to their daughters and the disruptions of the transmissions vis á vis Matrophobia. These ideological transmissions will be analyzed through a synthesis of Rich and Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed. These two forms of separation and amputation erupt into acts of mourning for the loss of matrilineage, which will be analyzed with Rich and Judith Butler’s Precarious Life. From mourning arises the justification for these failed transmissions, and justifications for maternity—which will incorporate Sandoval’s work on “love.” The complications of the relationships of mothers and daughters not only show how the relationship can explore the constraints of maternity in literature, but also serve as a guide to thinking critically about how motherhood is socially constructed as an institution. In short—by examining maternity and fascist regimes, the intersections of race, class and gender show that maternity, and motherhood, while constrained, was also a privilege, as the state rigidly defined who could be a mother, and who could not.

Adviser: Amelia María de la Luz Montes