0 13 2011

Mammary Landscapes and Mother's Figure: Vengeance and matrilineal legacy in the poetic drama of W.H. Auden

Andrew Campbell


This article will focus on The Ascent of F6 (1936) and work back to Paid On Both Sides, as both plays explore the psychological malaise of the protagonist and the domineering influence of the mother to striking effect. These dramas find their central protagonists grappling with the malignant influence of mothers who compel the climactic acts of revenge through the neurotic anxiety they have engendered within their sons. The first act of vengeance examined is figurative and illusory as the mother of the Ransom brothers pits her neurotic sons against each other in an Oedipal battle for glory or favour in F6. The second, more formative, action to be examined is literal and physical, as the matriarchs of Paid's Nower and Shaw families demand that their remaining sons commit acts of murderous revenge for slain fathers and brothers. Both are undoubtedly responses to the psychic deprivation and distress caused by the mother characters and their divided affections for their sons. While much work remains to be conducted in gendered approaches to the study of these texts, this article will explore the significance of vengeance and matrilineal legacy in W.H. Auden's poetic drama and locate this theme within the context of his poetry from the late Twenties to the late Thirties. This study anticipates further discussion of the role of matriarchal figures and gender debates arising from post-war literature.

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ISSN 1749-9771

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