Garden of Ambivalence The Topology of the Mother-child Dyad in Grey Gardens


  • Defne Tüzün Kadir Has University



The Maysles brothers’ 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, portrays the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith, known as Little Edie, the aunt and first cousin, respectively, of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. The mother and daughter live together in their East Hampton house that is literally falling apart. As their identical names imply, the Beales share a symbiotic relationship which is reflected in every aspect of their life. I argue that Grey Gardens calls for Julia Kristeva’s insistence on abjection as a crucial struggle with “spatial ambivalence (inside/outside uncertainty)” and an attempt to mark out a space in the undifferentiated field of the mother-child symbiosis. In Powers of Horror, Kristeva (1982) states, “abjection preserves what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship” (p. 10). Grey Gardens portrays the topology of the mother-child dyad, which pertains to a particular spatio-temporality: where this primordial relationship is concerned, object and subject crumble, and the distinction between past and present is irrelevant.


Kristeva, Julia. (1982). Powers of Horror: An essay on abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Colombia Uni. Press.

Renov, Michael. (1993). Theorizing Documentary. New York: Routledge.

Robson, Kenneth J. (1983). The Crystal Formation: Narrative Structure in Grey Gardens. Cinema Journal, 22 (2), 42-53.

Vogels, Jonathan B. (2005). The Direct Cinema of David and Albert Maysles. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press.




How to Cite

Tüzün, D. (2012). Garden of Ambivalence The Topology of the Mother-child Dyad in Grey Gardens. CINEJ Cinema Journal, 1(2), 92–101.