Monstrous Jouissance: Abjection and Écriture Féminine in Guillermo del Toro’s "Mama"

Leah Heim Ball State University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Vanessa Rapatz Ball State University
In “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Hélène Cixous illuminates her theories on écriture féminine with this powerful metaphor: “You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful, and she’s laughing” (885). Cixous’ écriture féminine frightens proponents of patriarchy, who like Perseus can only walk backward towards it, unable to know its truths until they are willing to face the Other. It finds literal expression in female monsters, many of whom serve as challenges to patriarchal ontologies. On the flip side of this coin, however, is the female monster as, in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s words, “an abjected fragment that enables the formation of [patriarchal] identities” (“Monster Culture: Seven Theses” 19). How may the latter become the former? How may Medusa shake the gaze of Perseus and come into her laughing, beautiful self?

One female monster who has made this transformation is the titular character of the 2013 film Mama. The film tells of two little girls who are saved from death and raised by a monstrous woman they refer to as “Mama.” After being recovered from the wilderness years later, the girls must abandon Mama. This paper uses the theories of Cixous and her contemporary Julia Kristeva to understand how a female monster like Mama can escape the pain of her abject monstrification and rise into the place of love and beauty envisioned by Cixous in her laughing Medusa.
Competitive Paper--All Disciplines (includes an Oral Presentation)
Competitive Paper (includes an Oral Presentation)

When & Where

09:30 AM
Pharmacy & Health Sciences 106A