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Speaking the UnspeakableReligion, Misogyny, and the Uncanny Mother in Freud's Cultural Texts$
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Diane Jonte-Pace

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520226005

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520226005.001.0001

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Death, Mothers, and the Afterlife

Death, Mothers, and the Afterlife

At Home in the Uncanny

(p.45) Chapter 2 Death, Mothers, and the Afterlife
Speaking the Unspeakable

Diane Jonte-Pace

University of California Press

This chapter focuses specifically on the themes of death, immortality, and the afterlife, revealing in Freud's texts, in addition to an Oedipal theory of patricidal fantasies, a set of images involving dead mothers, mothers as instructors in death, and “uncanny” maternal bodies. Freud's analysis of “the uncanny” as a term that “comes to mean its opposite” is pivotal for the counterthesis. Death, immortality, and the mother's body are all described as “uncanny” (unheimlich) maternal bodies. Freud used similar terminology to describe the fantasy of a heavenly afterlife, a “home in the uncanny,” and the genitals of the mother, an “uncanny home.” The notion of immortality for Freud involves the escape from death by living forever: Freud's term is Unsterblichkeit, which might be literally translated “nondeath” or “undeath.” The notion of an afterlife, on the other hand, implies a heavenly existence following death. The chapter describes scientific research on protozoa, which, Freud indicated, may be proof of the immortality of single-celled organisms.

Keywords:   immortality, Oedipal theory, Freud's text, counterthesis, death, mothers, afterlife

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