Valerie Heffernan

Valerie Heffernan is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies and Head of the Maynooth University School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Her interdisciplinary research interests encompass 20th and 21st century literature, feminist literary theory, and cultural studies. She has published widely on contemporary German literature, with a particular focus on women writers and German-speaking Swiss writers. Her current work critically analyses how motherhood is represented in contemporary European literature and culture. From 2014-2016, Valerie Heffernan was Principal Investigator of a research project entitled “The Cultural Transmission of Motherhood in Europe: A Case Study”, for which she was awarded a prestigious Irish Research Council Research Project Grant.

Valerie has published the following articles:

  • International Responses to Regretting Motherhood

TITLE OF THE TALK: Representing Maternal Regret

Both before and since the publication of Israeli sociologist Orna Donath’s pioneering research on mothers who regret the decision to have children, there have been many literary, visual, cinematic and artistic engagements with the idea and experience of maternal regret. This paper compares three such examples: Merle Grimme and Felizitas Hoffman’s documentary short Regretting Motherhood (2017); a contemporary circus performance entitled Raven (2018-) by Anke van Engelshoven, Lena Ries and Romy Seibt; and Diana Karklin’s photo-narrative project Undo Motherhood (2022). While all three projects offer new insights into the difficulties many women face in coming to terms with the role of mother and the demands of motherhood, the manner in which these pieces represent the regret that these mothers feel is quite different. My paper analyses the different approaches to representing regret in these three different projects and reflects on how each contributes to our understanding of this taboo topic.