I am very pleased to announce that the edited collection I put together with Ciara Meehan is now available. To celebrate we are offering the chance to win a copy of the collection.
To be in with a chance follow this link
The book includes a fantastic selection of chapters covering issues of emotions, consumerism, violence, and literary representations. For more details here are the abstracts.
This multi-disciplinary collection brings together work by scholars from Britain, America and Canada on the popular, personal and institutional histories of pregnancy. It follows the process of reproduction from conception and contraception, to birth and parenthood. The contributors explore several key themes: narratives of pregnancy and birth, the patient-consumer, and literary representations of childbearing. This book explores how these issues have been constructed, represented and experienced in a range of geographical locations from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. Crossing the boundary between the pre-modern and modern worlds, the chapters reveal the continuities, similarities and differences in understanding a process that is often, in the popular mind-set, considered to be fundamental and unchanging.
BREEDING A LITTLE STRANGER: MANAGING UNCERTAINTY IN PREGNANCY IN LATER GEORGIAN ENGLAND Joanne Begiato
Pregnancy was a routine, often regular experience for women across their child-bearing years in the long eighteenth century, since the majority of women wed in their mid-twenties and bore children until the menopause. Pregnancy was limited only by fertility, health, and sexual abstinence before the ‘fertility transition. As such pregnancy from its earliest stages to birth was a topic consistently discussed in family correspondence and diaries among the literate social ranks.’ Although individual circumstances were often different, one common theme emerges across these relatively mundane commentaries on pregnancy, a pervasive sense of apprehension. This chapter surveys the language used to describe pregnancy and the unborn child in order to learn more about the bodily and emotional experience of pregnancy in late Georgian England.
“BOUND TO BE A TROUBLESOME TIME”: CANADIAN PERCEPTIONS OF PREGNANCY, PARTURITION, AND PAIN, C. 1867-1920 Whitney Wood
The introduction, acceptance, and growing popularity of obstetric anaesthesia in Canada went hand in hand with changing conceptualisations of both pregnancy and birth. By the turn of the twentieth century, labour and delivery were overwhelmingly seen as pathological states, increasingly requiring medical management. Discussions surrounding the role of ‘birth pangs’ or labour pain in the birthing process, as both a diagnostic tool, and as a feature of labour requiring increasing attention, treatment, and control at the hands of overwhelmingly male physicians, were at the heart of this shift. This chapter offers an analysis of both professional and popular medical discourses with the aim of situating first person narratives within the broader contexts of these changes, in order to highlight Canadian perceptions of pregnancy during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.
FAMILIES, VULNERABILITY AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE DURING THE IRISH REVOLUTION Justin Dolan Stover
During the Irish Revolution, individuals increasingly recognised that joining nationalist groups, membership of the Sinn Féin political party, interest in Irish language revival, or active (or suspected) service in the IRA, implicated others. These considerations were not merely peripheral; anxiety over the safety of non-combatants within one’s family and community, and a desire to reduce collateral damage are frequent and central themes of the independence narrative. Such anxiety could also be placed within the context of fatherly concern more broadly. Moreover, as terror became a common feature the conflict throughout 1920 so, too, did the fear of sexual violence. This chapter explores the experiences of parents and their children, women and violation of bodies and intimate space, and the vulnerability and emotional anxiety experienced during this turbulent period.
AUDIBLE BIRTH, LISTENING WOMEN: STORYTELLING THE LABOURING BODY ON MUMSNET Anija Dokter
What do women perceive when they hear birth? This question is complex. Web 2.0 has offered mothers the opportunity to participate in the accumulation of text, audio and visual data about motherhood, and the women on Mumsnet provide a plethora of rich sonic descriptions. This chapter is part summary and part collaborative critique, an arts-inspired exploration of thousands of Mumsnet threads woven into a unique narrative fabric. The women-authored materials on Mumsnet contain many perspectives and complex social analyses, which can be contextualised by broader feminist critiques of the gender power relations at the core of families and medical institutions. In doing so, this chapter locates women’s intellectual work in non-elite women-authored literature.
FEMININE VALUE AND REPRODUCTION IN ROWLEY’S THE BIRTH OF MERLIN Daisy Murray
Recent scholarship reveals an emerging interest in the female characters in The Birth of Merlin. This shifting scholarly interest seems warranted in relation to a play which positions reproduction as a main concern through both its title and its plot. This chapter will demonstrate how the female characters raise issues related to reproduction and, through doing so, both interrogate the power afforded to women in their generative potential and explore how women can function productively in relation to the larger patriarchal condition of the kingdom. Analysing the play alongside contemporary discussions of pregnancy and childbirth will highlight how this depiction of womanhood participates within a larger cultural dialogue which values women because of their generative function, yet equally resists an elevation of the female because of this role.
“PREGNANT WOMEN GAZE AT THE PRECIOUS THING THEIR SOULS ARE SET ON”: PERCEPTIONS OF THE PREGNANT BODY IN EARLY MODERN LITERATURE Sara Read
The performance of pregnancy is a trope that is well-used in dramatic works. Pregnant characters are used to explore issues such as infidelity, concealed pregnancy, female duplicity, and unmarried pregnancy, for example. The chapter seeks to build on existing work that seeks to gain the most full understanding of a theatrical text by comparing it with other texts in a similar field. The focus will be on the ways that pregnancy was presented in works which were not primarily designed for the public stage, such as a privately commissioned playlet, along with prose and poetic works, in order to evaluate the extent to which contextual reading reveals in more depth themes prevalent in dramatic works and how far the themes overlap within these genres too.
BABIES WITHOUT HUSBANDS: UNMARRIED PREGNANCY IN 1960S BRITISH FICTION Fran Bigman
This chapter considers the persistent stigma of unmarried motherhood as an example of the limitations of the so-called permissive society. It examines the depiction of pregnancy out of wedlock in Lynne Reid Banks’s The L-Shaped Room (1960) and Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone (1965), arguing that these novels suggest an uneven pattern of liberalisation rather than a blanket shift to a ‘permissive society.’ In exploring taboo sexual topics, they both participate in a turn to gritty realism that characterises British fiction of the late 1950s and early-to-mid 1960s. While many examples are written by, and feature, male working-class authors from the North of England, Banks’s and Drabble’s novels, with their stories of middle-class women living in London, provide a different regional, classed, and gendered perspective on life in 1960s Britain.
THE BIRTH OF THE PREGNANT PATIENT-CONSUMER? PAYMENT, PATERNALISM AND MATERNITY HOSPITALS IN EARLY TWENTIETH-CENTURY ENGLAND George Campbell Gosling
From the First World War separating women opting for a hospital birth into different institutions according to class was slowly becoming a thing of the past. Nonetheless, payment and admission systems served to maintain a notable degree of separation between and within institutions. Where ability to pay is often assumed to offer an escape route from social convention, the experience of securing a hospital birth in pre-NHS England suggests otherwise. By taking an institutional perspective of maternity hospitals in Bristol, Liverpool and London, we find traditional and paternalistic attitudes towards pregnant women of different classes and marital status inscribed onto the money paid. This chapter argues that the act of paying the maternity hospital served to mitigate and mediate the rise of universalism on the juddering road towards the welfare state.
“CLOSER TOGETHER”: DUREX CONDOMS AND CONTRACEPTIVE CONSUMERISM IN 1970S BRITAIN Ben Mechen
Durex’s “Closer Encounters” campaign, displayed on billboards across Britain in 1979, marked a significant moment of transition for the Durex brand. Not only was it one of the company’s highest visibility campaigns to date, but it was also one of its first to so completely foreground a message about the pleasures and sensations that condoms enabled rather than the unplanned pregnancies they helped prevent. What facilitated this transition? This chapter argues that, in terms of both the campaign’s scale and visibility, and the particular claims about condoms and their sexual function it expressed, “Closer Encounters” signaled the culmination of two interlinked processes, analysis of which provides insights into how heterosexual relationships, the gendered division of contraceptive responsibilities and meanings of “good” sex have been reconceived in postwar Britain.