Panel: Clytemnestra Revisited:  A Historic and Psychoanalytic Perspective on Maternal Subjectivity


Panelists:  Meredith Darcy, LCSW-R, Private Practice; and Ellen Toronto, PhD, Private Practice


Thursday, May 31st, 2018 @ 2:35 pm - 4:20 pm    Room 912


2 CEUs



The panel will consider the topic of maternal subjectivity as influenced both by powerful Greek myth and by influential psychoanalytic theorists.  We will consider the puzzling absence of mother’s subjectivity in the relational model of psychoanalysis. One paper will address the story of Clytemnestra who is both power-hungry and “non-maternal” and whose murder by her own son is, on these grounds, justified.  As historical “truth” it has dictated a societal configuration of mother as simultaneously invisible and essential. It will present a clinical case in which Hillary Clinton—surely a figure of mythic proportions—figures prominently in a long-term treatment. The other paper will address the simultaneous absence and idealization of mother in psychoanalytic theory from its inception to the present, incorporating clinical examples.  This paper will examine the role psychoanalysis has played in abetting a felt pressure by mothers today having both the burden and responsibility of parenting, while simultaneously feeling the need to be selfless and perfect.


Learning Points:

At the end of this educational activity, its participants will be able to:

1) identify mythic and literary figures that have contributed to the societal configuration of mothers as both essential and invisible;

2) discuss cultural mandates that require mothers to forgo their own ambitions, and be perfectly selfless in caring for their children;

3) identify the stresses that are placed on mothers, and apply this to the clinical setting.



Bainbridge, C. et al. (Eds.) (2007). Culture and the unconscious, NY, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cooper, P., & Bradley Allen, N. (1999). The quilters: Women and domestic art: An oral history. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press.

Dimen, M. (Ed.) (2011). With culture in mind. NY, NY, Routledge.

Grossack, V., & Underwood, A. (2017). Clytemnestra: The mother's blade (Tapestry of Bronze Series). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Hollway, W. (2015). Knowing mothers: Researching maternal identity change. NY, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

O'Reilly, A. (Ed.) (2007). Maternal theory: Essential readings. Toronto, Ontario: Demeter Press. 

Rose, J. (2018). Mothers: An essay on love and cruelty. NY, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Segal, R. (1998). Jung on mythology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sidebotham, P. (2011). Culture, stress and the parent-child relationship: A qualitative study of parents' perceptions of parenting. Child Care Health Development, 27(6), 469-85.

Toronto, E. L.K., Ponder, J., Davisson, K., & Kelber Kelly M. (Eds.) (2017). A womb of her own: Women's struggle for sexual and Reproductive autonomy. London, UK: Routledge.


Bios of the Presenters:

Meredith Darcy, LCSW-R is a clinical social worker in New York City, and is Supervisor and Faculty at The Intensive Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program at the William Alanson White Institute. She has recently published the chapter entitled “Too Warm, Too Soft, Too Maternal: What is Good Enough?” - in E. L. K. Toronto, J. Ponder, K. Davisson, M. Kelly (Eds.), A Womb of Her Own: Women’s Struggle for Sexual & Reproductive Autonomy.

Ellen Toronto, PhD is in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is co-editor of Psychoanalytic Reflections on a Gender-free Case: Into the Void (Routledge, 2005), the author of Family Entanglement (CreateSpace 2013), writes a weekly parenting blog for PsychCentral, and is co-editor of A Womb of Her Own: Women’s Struggle for Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy.


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