Towards a Matricentric Feminist Poetics

Olivia Heal


The title of this article recalls that of Elaine Showalter’s essay "Towards a Feminist Poetics," in which she posits "gynocritics" as a term for a mode of "feminist criticism … concerned with woman as writer—with woman as the producer of textual meaning, with the history, themes, genres and structures of literature by women" (25). Here, I call for a matricentric feminist criticism, or "matricritics," where the latter refers to that area of literary criticism concerned with the mother as a writer and the attendant subjects. In attempting to draw up a matricritics, I begin by acknowledging the current rise in English-language maternal writing. I then, in the first part of this three-part article, list a number of formal tendencies common to this body of writing, drawing particularly on "Accumulations (Appendix F)" by Kate Zambreno. In the second part, in direct response to this taxonomy, I speculate on and begin to sketch out a critical methodology for reading maternal writing. The third part of the article is given over to a creative matricritical reading of "Appendix F"; this standalone piece is suggestive of how we might conceive of a matricentric feminist reading methodology in practice. An afterword highlights the matricritical elements at work in this alternative close reading.

Full Text:


We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for its ongoing support of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.