Genoa, Italy

GSH 2017 Summer Seminars: "The Mother"

when 24 July 2017 - 28 July 2017
language English
duration 1 week

Established in 2013 and directed by Lorenzo Chiesa and Raffaello Palumbo Mosca, the Genoa School of Humanities (GSH) offers weekly series of seminars in English held by scholars of philosophy, literature, and other subjects, as well as by psychoanalysts, filmmakers, poets, and novelists.

The topic of our seminars of Summer 2017 is the mother, which we will approach in our consolidated interdisciplinary way from the perspectives of psychoanalysis, feminism, literary criticism, and philosophy.

Producing a straightforward and consistent definition of maternity, motherhood, and mothering is unexpectedly difficult. What is a mother? Who is one’s mother? It is clearly not sufficient to understand her as the “female parent of a child” or “a woman in relation to her child or children”. Does woman become a mother at the moment of conception, gestation, or parturition? Or, conversely, is the mother primarily a product of complex – socially and ideologically – discursive practices that evade any strictly biological concept, or at least structurally supplement it?

Feminism in its various expressions has both contested motherhood, if not rejected it, as an oppressive apparatus of patriarchy, and saluted it as the irresistible cipher of a fundamental sexual difference to be championed. What are the philosophical, political, and aesthetical implications of these contrasting stances? How does the more and more evident decline of paternal authority influence all this?

Lacanian psychoanalysis has insisted on overcoming the alleged dichotomy between the mother as the real locus of a natural drive and the father as the symbolic site of culture and the Law. But then, quite bluntly, why is a mother irreducibly not a father, and vice versa? What is the basic symbolic function of motherhood? In what sense can we talk of a specific maternal desire that is neither masculine nor feminine and rather evokes an overwhelming and quasi-cannibalistic drive?

Like feminism and psychoanalysis, literature has long explored the love and conflicts that accompany the mother-child relationship. Can this ambivalence give rise to a specifically maternal discontent, guilt, shame, and even repulsion? How and when does a parent “fail” to be a mother? And, on the other hand, how and when is a child not “worthy” of a mother’s care? Does the representation of such tensions require particular narrative approaches that inevitably rely on an autobiographical dimension?

The GSH proposes itself as a venue where young scholars have a real possibility to deepen their knowledge, not only by attending seminars, but also by actively discussing in an informal context their own research projects with highly qualified teachers and among themselves. One of the basic ideas of the GSH is that learning is enhanced by the suspension of formalisms, hierarchies, and the principle of authority that usually define traditional academic contexts. Each day revolves around one or two presentations by an invited speaker and is enriched by roundtables, small study groups, and debates that are always attended by one or more seminar leaders. The exchange of knowledge and ideas is facilitated by the limited number of students (max 15), and by the interdisciplinary nature of the seminars.

Speakers/seminar leaders at the GSH are leading international figures in their academic and extra-academic fields. They are based both in Italy and abroad. Participants are thus exposed to different cultures, teaching methods, and disciplinary perspectives. They are also enabled to establish new research networks and acquire practical information on how to access PhD and post-doctoral programmes. The GSH has welcomed students from several countries, including Italy, the UK, Russia, Iran, Israel, and the Ukraine.

Course leader

Lorenzo Chiesa
Raffaello Palumbo Mosca

Fee info


5 days of seminars: €250
4 days of seminars: €200
3 days of seminars: €150
2 days of seminars: €100

Please, pay by bank transfer to:

Spazio Musica (reason for payment: GSH)
Bank: CA.RI.GE.
IBAN: IT72 M061 7501 44800000 0260 880

Payments should be received no later than 10 July 2017. Please, send a copy of the payment receipt to