Hilary Owen (University of Manchester)

This paper focuses on the construction of maternal identity and female creativity in Natália Correia's iconoclastic 1968 novel A Madona. Departing from Correia's renowned defence of a philosophy of "matrismo" (maternalism or matriarchalism) as against "feminismo", I note that her highly rhetorical, personalized and performative account of "matrismo" was, at the same time, articulated in relation to a strongly anti-natalist stance that lent public support to abortion rights. I argue that Correia's aesthetics of "matrismo", relying heavily on a surrealist-influenced narrative aesthetic, worked rather to question than to reinforce gender and sex typologies, suggesting a shifting dynamic, interaction between the sexes, which does not readily cohere into the ideality of a socio-symbolic norm. In relation to the text of A Madona specifically, I draw on Butlerian theory to show that her representation of sexual difference and female reproductivity, through the Bildungs narrative of the protagonist Branca, takes the form of a progressively disjunctive "mis-mapping", deploying surrealist techniques such as "le hasard objectif" and the reiteration of Nietzschean image cycles from Greco-Roman and Egyptian myth. The result is a loosening of the "necessary" relation that binds sexual identity to the absolute symbolic law of genealogical continuity, so that sexuality itself in Correia's work, and the sexing of creative genius that it authorizes in much of her thinking, are revealed to be, in Judith Butler's term, largely phantasmatic.