This study is primarily concerned with the mother plot as it represents the distribution of authority in the family and, by extension, the larger culture. Maternal authority is first and foremost an authority of origin. Second, maternity by definition constitutes an authority of knowledge, the mother’s knowledge of authentic fatherhood and the legitimacy of children. Plotting Motherhood in Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern Literature examines the ways in which plots make interpretive claims upon authoritative maternal knowledge in order to produce a great variety of material and political effects and outcomes. The study should be of interest to those who have focused on the struggles and contradictions that have long been embedded in the politics of gender. This book offers a suggestive genealogy of those struggles and politics. Including texts from many different historical periods, I pay particular attention to the ways that the historical moment in which each text is produced inflects the possibilities for innovations and constraints in literary forms. I want to underscore how noticeably dependent our cultural representations have been on variations of the mother plot in order to tell certain stories for a long time; but also to emphasize a trajectory in which these variations are encountering political and social conditions in which they may be revised and transformed. Studying the historical permutations of conceptions of maternal authority and their changing embodiment in literary forms presents a compelling picture of a culture’s evaluation of itself. This book shows that while biological motherhood is itself inevitable, the mother plot as historically constructed is not.