By Clare Hanson

Hanson explores the several ways that being pregnant has been built and interpreted in Britain during the last 250 years. Drawing on a variety of resources, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant recommendation books, literary texts, renowned fiction and visible photos, she analyzes altering attitudes to key matters equivalent to the relative rights of mom and fetus and the measure to which clinical intervention is suitable in being pregnant. Hanson additionally considers the results of clinical and social adjustments at the subjective adventure of pregnancy.

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Extra resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000

Example text

In the essay, scientific argument and humane feeling threaten to collide and are just held together, in creative tension. However, something of the same tension can be traced in the obstetrical atlas, in which the ‘dispassionate’ dissection of the torsos of dead women is counterbalanced, even infused by, specifically humane feeling. Hunter went out of his way to defend the objectivity of the new method of engraving used in his atlas: he claimed that ‘the art of engraving supplies us, upon many occasions, with what has been the great desideratum of the lovers of science, an universal language’ (Preface).

In the embedded narrative, we learn of the young Laura’s falling in love with the freethinker Glenmorris and marrying him against her parents’ will. After the marriage, they live happily on his rundown estate in Scotland. However, when Laura is pregnant, Glenmorris is attacked and captured and is so seriously injured that Laura believes he is dead. Her husband’s only surviving relation, the aptly named Lady Kilbrodie, realising that Glenmorris’s estate will pass to her son if Glenmorris’s child does not survive, takes Laura to live with her with the sole aim of ensuring the death of the child.

It was thus possible to develop a specifically uterine ‘causal’ model for female instability, in the same way that a hormonal model could be developed and deployed in the twentieth century. Valuing pregnancy As a social function, reproduction is laden with social and economic meanings, and in this context some pregnancies are always considered more valuable, both economically and ideologically, than others. An examination of a range of texts from this period reveals two specific and related discourses which attempt to discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pregnancies.

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