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Matrophobia and Uncanny Kinship: Eva Hoffman's The Secret
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Education.
2017 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Eva Hoffman is not known for her speculations about the future, but for her engagement with the past. Her autobiography, Lost in Translation (1989), accounts for her personal history as a post-war Polish emigrant to Canada and the US, and her major works of non-fiction examine different aspects of Eastern European and Jewish history. Hoffman repeatedly connects the experiences of the postmemory generation (Hirsch), of children of Holocaust survivors such as herself, with the uncanny. As she explains, “this is . . . the second generation’s difficulty: that it has inherited not experiences, but its shadows. The uncanny, in Freud’s formulation, is the sensation of something that is both very alien and deeply familiar, something that only the unconscious knows. If so, then the second generation has grown up with the uncanny” (ASK 66).

This paper explores the uncanny in Hoffman’s little known work of Gothic science fiction (Wasson and Alder), The Secret: A Fable for our Time (2001). The protagonist, Iris, retrospectively narrates her coming-of-age from the vantage of the not-too-distant future of 2025. In The Secret, cloning is a practicable but somewhat disparaged mode of human reproduction, and Iris, the narrator, is the “monstrous” cloned offspring of her single mother. As Iris grows into adulthood, the uncanny similarities and tight bonds between her and her mother lead Iris to develop matrophobia, a strong dread of becoming her mother (Sukenick, Rich). Hoffman’s novel can thus be understood in terms of “the matrophobic Gothic” (Rogers), but, I argue, it also modifies this genre by bringing to it insights into the uncanniness of second-generation experiences of mother-daughter kinship.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Hoffman, uncanny, science fiction, clone, post-war fiction
National Category
Languages and Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-33406OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-33406DiVA: diva2:1141664
Conference
The Uncanny in Language, Literature and Culture International Conference arranged by the London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and the Interdisciplinary Research Foundation, 19 August 2017, London.
Projects
Remembering Poland and Eastern Europe: Nostalgia, Memory, and Affect in Diasporic Women’s Writing.
Funder
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, ÖSSnr 2015/3.1./1364
Available from: 2017-09-15 Created: 2017-09-15 Last updated: 2017-09-19Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf