The monstrous mother: images of unexpected evil
Parution, avant le 30 avril 2023

Direction : Anna Chiara Corradino, Alessandro Grilli, Sofia Torre

The monstrous mother, a peculiar subset of the « monstrous feminine » (Creed 1993), is a recurring figure in cultural representation – in mythology, literature and the arts. Its multifaceted profile symbolizes the dangers and anxieties associated with motherhood and the maternal. 

The representations of the mother/monster equation include a multitude of tropes –  incestuous or devouring mothers, mother-lovers, witches as anti-mothers. In general, the abject reshaping of maternal identities is meant as an extreme violation of normative order. Monstrous mothers first appear in antiquity, and reappear throughout the arts and cultures of the Global North: the monstrous mother is a well attested pattern in fairy tales, but she also informs mythical representations of historic personalities, and appear to be more and more popular in contemporary fiction and film.

Indeed, the monstrous mother invariably mirrors societal anxieties relating to motherhood; its anti-cultural profile can be well understood as a form of cultural censorship of female power, since it helps reinforce normative expectations relating to “ideal” mothers who sacrifice everything for their children and never abandon them. Pornographic and incestuous mothers, on the other hand, suggest unconventional ways of making sense of the mother/child bond. Ultimately, the monstrous mother is a multifaceted trope, including complex and nuanced aspects of abject motherhood through space and time. 

The aim of this book project is to explore deviant varieties of motherhood in literature, arts, film and other media, by investigating the ever-changing forms it assumes from antiquity to the present. We welcome submissions that examine the ways in which monstrous mothers and female dominance have been depicted across epochs and cultures. 

  • Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:
  • Monstrous mothers in myth and folk-lore
  • The literary and artistic representation of “deviant” (incestuous, overbearing, homicidal) mothers through time
  • The subversion of the monstrous mother trope in contemporary art and literature
  • The monstrous mother as a source of empowerment for women in feminist literature
  • The representation of monstrous mothers in porn movies
  • The intersection of race, class, and gender in the representation of monstrous mother.

We encourage submissions from scholars of all backgrounds and levels of experience exploring the topic of deviant motherhood.

Particularly welcome are interdisciplinary and transcultural contributions aiming at highlighting the subversive power of non-normative motherhood, as well as challenging the category of motherhood as a whole.

Please submit a 250-word abstract and a brief biography to by 30th of April 2023.

Full papers should be no longer than 8.000 words and will be due by 29th September 2023. All submissions will be peer-reviewed.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and engaging in a rich and thought-provoking exchange on the topic of monstrous mothers and female dominance in culture, literature, and the arts.

Main References 

Creed, Barbara, (1993). The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. Routledge.

Giorgio, Adalgisa, (2002). Writing Mothers and Daughters: Renegotiating the Mother in Western European Narratives by Women. Oxford University Press.

Palko, A.L. and O’Reilly, A. eds., (2021). Monstrous Mothers. Demeter Press. doi: