Reading: Rosie Carpe and the Virgin Mary: Modelling Modern Motherhood


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Rosie Carpe and the Virgin Mary: Modelling Modern Motherhood


Pauline Eaton

Birkbeck, University of London, GB
About Pauline

PhD student, French

Department of Cultures and Languages

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Marie NDiaye’s 2001 novel, Rosie Carpe, incorporates, as one of its several instances of parenting failure, the narrative of the decline of a single mother from adequacy to abuse. This narrative, which is the focus of this article, might be said to put flesh on the bones of Julia Kristeva’s deconstruction of the Virgin Mary in her 1980s essay ‘Stabat Mater’. Kristeva saw the Marian model as out of date but she interrogated its enduring power and its continuing influence on our cultural perceptions of maternity. NDiaye’s eponymous Rosie realises she is pregnant but has no idea how this has come about. Rosie is not represented as a woman who has a religious faith but she decides to accept her child as a holy miracle. This article analyses how the ‘mythology’ of the Virgin Mary, and other biblical intertext, is woven into the narrative of Rosie’s experience of motherhood, so as to counterpoint and illuminate Rosie’s bleak and raw inner experience of maternity, an experience which, while confirming that Rosie is not, and never could have been, a modern Virgin Mary nevertheless refreshes the human stories at the root of the Christian narrative.

How to Cite: Eaton, P., 2016. Rosie Carpe and the Virgin Mary: Modelling Modern Motherhood. Religion and Gender, 6(1), pp.29–46. DOI:
Published on 20 Jun 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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