Cultural Representations of Motherhood
Researchers in the School of Modern Languages, Literatures are interested in how mothers, mothering, and motherhood are portrayed in popular culture, film, literature and the media. Their work looks at how these representations shape our understanding of motherhood and invites us to think differently about motherhood.
- Valerie Heffernan’s research focuses on the cultural construction of motherhood in contemporary Germany, with a particular focus on family narratives and on representations of maternal regret. A recent publication, which can be accessed here, looks at the #regrettingmotherhood debate in Germany.
- Julie Rodgers’ research focuses on maternal counternarratives in French, which includes choosing to be childfree, maternal ambivalence, maternal mental health, and cryptic pregnancy. Her most recent publication in this area is an edited volume entitled The Truth About (M)otherhood: Choosing to be Childfree.
- Dr Mercedes Carbayo Abengozar is working on a project on the representation of adoptive mothers in Spanish literature and culture. Her other research interests include representations of women/mothers, marginalized mothers, and adoption/class.
All three researchers from the SMLLC are involved in the Maynooth University Motherhood Project, an interdisciplinary research centre housed in the Arts and Humanities Institute. The Motherhood Project recently received funding through the Horizon 2020 EU framework programme for MotherNet, a 3-year collaborative project with Uppsala University (Sweden) and Vilnius University (Lithuania). The project will involve a series of summer schools, research events, training and networking sessions, public communication events, and a major international conference.
Read more about our research:
'It's reaffirmed our vision not to have children' – meet the couples grappling with the question of starting a family in a pandemic The Irish Independent, April 14th 2021
Parenthood or the planet? Choosing the fight against global warming over having children The Irish Independent, October 3rd 2020
Stigmatised, and on the margins: Understanding Motherhood in the 21st Century Maynooth University, March 26th 2017
Researchers in the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures explore how speakers of different languages acquire languages, use them in meaningful ways in their social context(s), make efforts to maintain and revitalize them in multilingual contexts, and how institutions help or can help in these efforts. .
Dr Clive W. Earls’s expertise centres on Language-in-Education Policy and Planning, with a strong focus on Foreign Language Pedagogy, Intercultural Communication and Sociolinguistics of German and English as international languages, including English medium of instruction in Europe. He is currently supervising doctoral students in language-in-education policy in Ireland, English medium-of-instruction higher education in Algeria and German as a lingua franca in undergraduate telecollaboration.
Dr David García León’s research interests lie in the study of both linguistic diversity and sexual and gender diversity. He combines approaches such as Sociolinguistics, Queer Linguistics, and Critical Discourse Analysis with Cultural Studies to understand how media represents minoritized communities and their languages.
Dr Yinya Liu’s research interests in Applied Linguistics include Chinese in business communication, the Chinese language in social media, and Chinese as a foreign language.
Dr Ana de Prada Pérez’s research applies data-driven approaches to answer the grand challenge question in bilingualism and language contact research: what restricts cross-linguistic influence and code-switching in Spanish-English, Spanish-Catalan, and Spanish-Belizean Creole bilinguals? She is currently working on a project on linguistic gains in virtual exchanges with native speakers with undergraduate students with a SPUR fellowship.
Dr Elyse Ritchey’s research interests include Language Endangerment, Language Revitalisation, Sociolinguistics, Discourse Analysis, and Romance Linguistics. In her work, she investigates the social and linguistic significance of language revitalisation at the local level through ethnographic, discourse analytic, and corpus-based approaches. Her doctoral thesis and current project examine Occitan revitalisation in rural France, with an eye to wider application of her findings.
Professor Arnd Witte’s areas of expertise comprise (a) the theory and practice of mediating and learning foreign languagees (particularly German), (b) the development of intercultural competence and (c) holistic approaches to foreign language teaching and learning. His current research focuses on the utilisation of neo-phenomenological theories for foreign language learning which emphasize a first-person perspective and the enactive role of the body, particularly the lived body (Leib).
Research on Cultures of Migration in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
Migration has often been presented as a challenge and even a threat to contemporary society, yet it is an ancient phenomenon that has long shaped societies and thought and that continues to enrich our increasingly globalized world. The research on the Cultures of Migration in the SMLLC ranges from Europe to French Canada and from the Americas to China. Our explorations of migration through cultural production showcases how the Humanities can generate transformative responses to displacement but also to welcome, refuge and sanctuary.
- Dr Cordula Böcking (German Studies) is interested in migration in German-language literature and film and has worked on the link between migration and national imaginaries in Turkish-German film.
- Dr Francesca Counihan (French Studies) examines how translation relates to experiences of migration and exile, with a particular focus on Marguerite Yourcenar's move to the United States and her later translations into French of Negro Spirituals (1964) and Blues and Gospels (1984)
- Dr Ana de Prada Pérez (Spanish and Latin American Studies) employs variationist methods to study Spanish-English and Spanish-Catalan bilinguals in order to normalize bilingual speech and inform and propose theories of bilingualism.
- Dr Catherine Leen (Spanish and Latin American Studies) examines border crossing and hybridity in Mexican and Chicanx cinema, art and literature.
- Dr Yinya Liu (Chinese Studies) has research interests in national identities and religious identities of Chinese migration.
- Dr Zhouxiang Lu (Chinese Studies) has research interests in Chinese migrants in Ireland.
- Dr Julie Rogers (French Studies) works on migrant literature in Québec, particularly the Sino-Québécoise writer Ying Chen. Her lens of interpretation is Nomadic Subjectivity, using the theory of Rosi Braidotti.
- Dr Linda Shortt (German Studies) works on imaginary geographies and cultural representations of the experience of expulsion and displacement, especially narratives of belonging; Heimat and home; and exclusion and non-belonging.
- Professor Ruth Whelan (French Studies) investigates the lives that the Huguenots had in France, what those lives became in exile, and how the refugees tried to explain what had happened to overturn the only lives that they knew.
The study of the literature and film of the twentieth and twenty-first century offers a window into the major developments and upheavals that have shaped the modern world. In the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, our research explores the aesthetic, historical and political dimensions of national, transnational and transcultural literary and filmic cultures as they have evolved over the course of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Geographically, our interests span from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean, and from China to the Americas.
In addition to questions of theory, method and form, particular research interests include imagined geographies, displacement and migration, precariousness, postcolonial studies, the legacies and memories of political conflict and social change, popular and mass culture in an increasingly globalised world, gender and sexuality, adaptation, and the medical and environmental humanities.
Specialist staff in this area include:
- Dr Cordula Böcking works on twentieth and twenty-first century German-language transnational myth adaptations (esp. Joan of Arc), constructions of Europe in recent German-language film (esp. the cinema of Christian Petzold), and the relationship between cultural and gendered othering in Turkish-German and Turkish-Austrian film.
- Dr Mercedes Carbayo Abengózar works on twenty century women singers and writers specially on the work of Carmen Martín Gaite and Concha Piquer. She is particularly interested in motherhood, national representations, non-normative behaviours.
- Dr David Conlon works on Latin American literature and culture, with particular interests in detective and mystery narratives, representations of globalization and precarity, and ecocritical approaches to interpreting fiction and film.
- Dr Francesca Counihan works on twentieth century French female authorship and authority, exile/ displacement and translation (particularly Marguerite Yourcenar). She has also published on twenty-first century French women writers (Darrieussecq, Nothomb and Angot).
- Dr Catherine Leen has published extensively on Mexican and Chicanx cinema and on the cinemas of Paraguay and Argentina. Her research also focuses on the literature of the Mexican-American borderlands and the Chicanx diaspora, particularly the work of Sandra Cisneros, Josefina López and Tomás Rivera.
- Dr Yinya Liu works on contemporary Chinese-language film studies with a particular focus on martial arts films, and ethical reflections of Chinese society in film.
- Dr Zhouxiang Lu works on politics and identity in Chinese Wuxia (‘Martial Heroes’) novels and Kung Fu films.
- Dr Julie Rodgers works on twenty-first century Francophone women's writing and cinema. She is particularly interested in thanatology, illness, motherhood, girlhood, the Anthropocene, the posthuman, and Indigenous literatures in contemporary Canada. She co-organises the annual Franco-Irish literary festival.
- Dr Linda Shortt works on twentieth and twenty-first century German-language literature and culture, with particular interests in the politics of belonging, place-making and home, as well as the medical and environmental humanities.
- Professor Ruth Whelan has published on the complexities of the representation of the Second World War in the fiction and prose writings of André Chamson (1900-1983).
Other staff working in this area: Dr Jeff Morrisson.
How do societies remember? Or more pertinently, how can societies that have been forged out of conflict remember their collective pasts? Researchers in the School of Modern Languages Literatures and Cultures maintain that the real issue is not what memory is, but rather whose memory and how that memory functions in society, history, culture, and politics―whether in the past or the present.
The complex issues involved in whose memory prompt Yinya Liu (Chinese Studies), working on Paul Ricoeur’s theory of memory, to argue for a dialectic relationship of sameness and otherness in human interaction, which often stores the wounds of violence and scars. Hierarchies of power are also embedded in whose memory and result in dominant and occulted experiences and discourses, willed forgetting and organised remembering. Researchers in SMLLC study these issues from a variety of perspectives. Ruth Whelan (French Studies) investigates the life-writing and trauma narratives of Huguenot refugees, and French Protestant galley slaves, who became relentless recorders of their experience of persecution, displacement or captivity in early modern France. Linda Short (German Studies) writes about family memory and transgenerational trauma memory, cultural memory and terrorism, remembering and forgetting in societies in transition. Cordula Böcking (German Studies) works on the transnational memory, representations, and adaptations of Joan of Arc, which lend themselves to causes as diverse as nationalism (French and German), women’s suffrage, National Socialism and LGBTQ+ culture. The memory of the Second World War is investigated by Valerie Heffernan (German Studies), who has published on contemporary family novels in German, which depict its impact on individuals and families and the influence of the past on subsequent generations. Diverse as they are, these research topics have in common an ethical imperative: to bear witness, to tell the story, to leave, recover, reformulate a trace, which means that memory, what, whose, or how, looks to the past but is oriented to the present and shapes the future.
Gender representation is a key area of research in the School, covering a broad spectrum, from the transgressive femininity of Amazons in medieval German literature (Cordula Böcking) to feminism and sport in modern China (Sixi Liu)
Contemporary women’s writing is a common focus of interest, including in France (Julie Rodgers’ recent article on Leila Slimani and the Killer Nanny) and Germany (Valerie Heffernan’s volume on emerging German-language women writers). Other colleagues have looked at gender in relation to earlier writers, be it women’s authorship and authority, Marguerite Yourcenar (Francesca Counihan), or Carmen Martín Gaite’s contradictory relationship with feminism (Mercedes Carbayo-Abengozar).
Cinema and media also focus attention, as Dr David García Leon looks at non-conforming masculinities in the Latin American cultural industry, Cordula Böcking at transgressive gender roles and cultural otherness in contemporary Turkish-German film and Julie Rodgers at birth and mothering in contemporary French women's film-making. Representations of women in popular song are also addressed, through the analysis of Spanish ‘coplas’ particularly during the Franco regime (Mercedes Carbayo-Abengozar).
Several colleagues are also involved in the Maynooth University Motherhood Project. Broader collaborations include the forthcoming conference (6th-9th May 2021) on 'Femmes dérangées, femmes dérangeantes', co-organised by Julie Rodgers and Dr Polly Gallis (University of Bristol) for Women in French UK-Ireland.