Charlyn Marie Ingwerson

Charlyn Marie Ingwerson Ph.D, is faculty in the Department of Languages and Literature at Drury University, a private liberal arts college in Springfield, Missouri, where she teaches courses in comparative literature and cultural studies, contemporary Middle Eastern and Israeli literature, and studies in nonviolence, including women’s peace movements. She was awarded the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2022. Ingwerson is a Fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, a member of the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), the American Association of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), and a member of the Board of the Midwest Jewish Studies Association. She has presented her critical scholarship in literature by Middle Eastern women writers, Israeli literature, and Motherhood Studies at several conferences. She is also active in civic leadership.


The article’s title draws from critic Patrocinio Schweickart who writes that the feminist goal of interpreting literature is to “change the world” (“Reading Ourselves” 39). Indeed, shifts in cultural perspective have always been accompanied by critical activity in literature. To that end, this article introduces Maternal Critical Theory. The article begins with a contrastive definition of “authoritarianism” and “maternal authority.” To read, to critically interpret, using a lens that recognizes this dynamic counterpoint to authoritarianism destabilizes the centricity of the patriarchal myth and readers participate in a cultural shift toward maternal authority. The article explicates the three distinctions of Maternal Critical Theory: 1) the goal of a reciprocal encounter, 2) recognizing resistance in vulnerability to locate maternal authority, and 3) recognizing maternal authority in others is a premise for discourses that build peaceful communities. The article offers an excerpt of a Maternal Critical reading of Israeli writer Ronit Matalon’s novel, The Sound of Our Steps. In further applied analysis, the article asserts Maternal Critical Theory as a checkpoint to authoritarian mythmaking that ultimately demands the mother’s erasure: to erase the mother is to forget maternal authority, reducing the landscape to the powerful and the helpless. This introduction to Maternal Critical Theory is an invitation into a critical activity that draws from maternal practices upon which all life depends.

Maternal Critical Theory: Reading to Change the World

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