Maternity, Morality, and the Literature of Madness by Marilyn Yalom
This book explores the interrelationship between the option and experience of motherhood and the experience of mental breakdown as vividly communicated by 20th-century women writers. The focus is on three writers — Sylvia Plath, Marie Cardinal, and Margaret Atwood — but others are included, such as Maxine Hong Kingston, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf, and Emma Santos.
The approach is psycholiterary. The author demonstrates a broad knowledge of psychological and feminist literary criticism (both psychoanalytic and existential). She brings to her subject many years of experience as a professor of French and comparative literature and as a literary scholar and feminist researcher who has published on a wide variety of subjects (e.g., George Sand, Stendhal, Ernest Hemingway, older women in Victorian society, the sexual revolution of the 1970's and mother daughter attachment in literature and life). Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness calls attention to the ways in which maternity and motherhood represent common forms of apprehension for all women, reactivating the fear of death that has been discovered and repressed in childhood, and in some instances, contributing directly to mental breakdown. It offers evidence of the particular stresses encountered by highly gifted women who try to negotiate their way between creation and procreation and "write their way out" of madness.