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Palgrave Macmillan

Mama's Boy

Momism and Homophobia in Postwar American Culture

ISBN 9781137274052
Publication Date October 2012
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

In postwar America, the discourse of Momism advanced the idea that an over-affectionate or too-distant mother hampers the social and psychosexual development of her children, in particular her sons. Deemed worst of all was the outcome of homosexuality, since the period saw an intense policing of sexual deviance. van den Oever zooms in on four instances of the cultural representation of Momism: The Grotto, by Grace Zaring Stone, Suddenly Last Summer, by Tennessee Williams, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth, to offer new commentary on canonical texts, a particular moment in American culture, and future reading strategies.

Roel van den Oever is an assistant professor of English literature and American studies at VU University.

Momism and the Lavender Scare
Oppositional Reading and The Grotto
Narrative Closure and Suddenly Last Summer
Character Engagement and Psycho
Laughter/Ridicule and Portnoy's Complaint


"This book is a brilliant meditation on homophobia, misogyny, narrative, and their interrelations in cold-war American culture." - Henry Abelove, F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Gender and Sexuality, Harvard University
"This highly readable book offers an excellent recapitulaton of an American nightmare. The McCarthy era institutionalised a harsh oppression of gay people. Social paranoia translated into cultural repression. Van den Oever shows in his amazing analyses of well-chosen novels and the Hitchcock-movie Psycho how sexual paranoia pervaded American culture until the sixties. His interpretations are original, compelling, and totally convincing. An amazing piece of work." - Maaike Meijer, professor of Gender Studies, Maastricht University
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