Event Title

Monstrous Feminine, Deviant Mother: Tolkien’s Shelob + Grotesque Maternal

Presenter Information

Sara Brown

Start Date

2-5-2022 11:00 AM

Description

As a society, we are used to the concept of “mother” as a symbol of nurturing. Usually seen as a performance of femininity, the ideal mother is the caring and supportive figure who enables the child, with loving encouragement, to become whatever or whoever they are destined to be. Occasionally, however, we are confronted by a “mother” that transgresses these ideals and subverts the norms of the maternal role. Grotesque, yet recognizably female, Tolkien’s terrifying spider-creature Shelob exemplifies the image of Julia Kristeva’s abject mother in her twisted perversion of the feminine. Shelob’s “otherness” lies in the combination of her non-normative expression of gender and her perversion of the maternal, in which she mates with, then consumes, her own offspring. Instead of nurturing others, she nurtures and nourishes only herself, using her bodily fluids to poison and paralyze rather than to support and sustain. In the tradition of Grendel’s Mother, Shelob is depicted as a monster that acts upon desires that are seen as transgressive, for which she is condemned. Drawing also on theorists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jack Halberstam and Judith Butler, this paper explores the character of Shelob as a representation of what Barbara Creed has termed the “monstrous-feminine.” In doing so, it examines Shelob’s presentation within the text as not only identified as female, but more specifically as a mother, queering this gendered space.

Comments

Host: Nolan Meditz

Tech Mod: Leslie Donovan

Dr. Sara Brown is Chair of Language & Literature at Signum University, where she has taught on courses that have included ‘Modern Fantasy’ with Corey Olsen, ‘Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth’ with Verlyn Flieger, ‘Roots of the Mountain’ with Doug Anderson, ‘The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’ with John Garth, and ‘Celtic Myth in Children’s Fantasy’ with Dimitra Fimi, and her own course ‘Tolkien in Context: Middle-earth as a Roadmap to Twentieth-Century Anxieties’. Sara currently serves on the editorial board of Mallorn and is a founder member/ host for The Tolkien Experience Podcast.

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Feb 5th, 11:00 AM

Monstrous Feminine, Deviant Mother: Tolkien’s Shelob + Grotesque Maternal

As a society, we are used to the concept of “mother” as a symbol of nurturing. Usually seen as a performance of femininity, the ideal mother is the caring and supportive figure who enables the child, with loving encouragement, to become whatever or whoever they are destined to be. Occasionally, however, we are confronted by a “mother” that transgresses these ideals and subverts the norms of the maternal role. Grotesque, yet recognizably female, Tolkien’s terrifying spider-creature Shelob exemplifies the image of Julia Kristeva’s abject mother in her twisted perversion of the feminine. Shelob’s “otherness” lies in the combination of her non-normative expression of gender and her perversion of the maternal, in which she mates with, then consumes, her own offspring. Instead of nurturing others, she nurtures and nourishes only herself, using her bodily fluids to poison and paralyze rather than to support and sustain. In the tradition of Grendel’s Mother, Shelob is depicted as a monster that acts upon desires that are seen as transgressive, for which she is condemned. Drawing also on theorists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jack Halberstam and Judith Butler, this paper explores the character of Shelob as a representation of what Barbara Creed has termed the “monstrous-feminine.” In doing so, it examines Shelob’s presentation within the text as not only identified as female, but more specifically as a mother, queering this gendered space.

Mythcon 52: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien

Albuquerque, New Mexico; July 29 - August 1, 2022
https://www.mythsoc.org/mythcon/mythcon-52.htm

Mythcon Conference