Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of English Literatures and Philosophy


In this thesis I develop a theory of maternal-foetal bonding as a phenomenological description of how a mother and foetus interrelate throughout gestation. I argue that not only does such a relationship exist but I lay out the steps and stages involved from both the perspective of maternity and in the development of the foetus.

In order to achieve this aim I draw upon the phenomenology of the French philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The result is a description of maternal-foetal bonding that frames the relation in the context of what Merleau-Ponty describes as body schematic coupling or accouplement. The conclusion that I draw is that bonding is a process of accouplement with the gestational mother that initially begins in utero but carries into infancy and possibly beyond.

The secondary aim of this thesis is to apply this new understanding of maternal-foetal bonding to a feminist critique of contemporary policy and practice that currently denies maternal subjectivity within the bonding process.

Together, the overall aim of this thesis is to provide a theoretical basis which will inform further research and the development of policies and practices that better understand and are thus more respectful of the role that mothers play in foetal development.