Alison Stone is Reader in European Philosophy at Lancaster University, UK. She is the author of Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegel's Philosophy (SUNY Press 2004), Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference (Cambridge University Press 2006), An Introduction to Feminist Philosophy (Polity Press 2007) and most recently Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Maternal Subjectivity (Routledge 2011). She has also edited the Edinburgh Critical History of Nineteenth-Century Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2011).
In this article I explore the temporal structure of maternal subjectivity by looking at how becoming a mother tends to prompt women to return to their infancy and their experiences of being cared for by their own mothers. The new mother remembers her own infantile past primarily at an affective, bodily, and habitual level, by re-enacting patterns of behaviour and affective response that once circulated between herself and her own mother. I suggest that this kind of maternal remembering generates a particular form of lived time: one that is cyclical, centring on the regular reappearance of an archaic past that cuts across time as a linear succession of moments. However, the mother’s past can only ever repeat itself with a difference. Because the past is re-enacted between the mother and her child, the past is always re-created in a new shape, adapted to the unique individual that each child is. This ensures that the mother can only remember her infantile past in the light of this novel present, a present that bestows on the past new meanings that it did not originally have. Thus the mother’s past returns, but never simply as it was.