By Clare Hanson
Hanson explores the several ways that being pregnant has been built and interpreted in Britain over the past 250 years. Drawing on a variety of assets, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant suggestion books, literary texts, well known fiction and visible photos, she analyzes altering attitudes to key matters similar 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 event of pregnancy.
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Additional resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000
It is impossible to determine whether Southcott was in fact suffering from organic disease (for example, a tumour or ﬁbroid growth) or whether hers was a case of what we would now call hysterical pregnancy. The case became notorious and inspired much satirical comment, not only at the expense of Southcott but also at that of the clergymen and doctors who had supported her case. Thomas Rowlandson’s cartoon ‘A Medical Inspection: or Miracles Will Never Cease’ is particularly instructive. It shows a monstrously corpulent Southcott, from the rear, lifting her skirts to display her belly and towering over a clergyman on her left and three doctors on her right.
For contemporary physiologists, ‘sensibility’ denoted the responsiveness of the nervous ﬁbres to painful stimuli. 15 It may be that it is in this sense alone that Mears wishes to argue that the womb after conception is ‘sensible’, that is, responsive and alert to potential pain or danger, rather than morbidly irritable. However, whether intentionally or not, her use of the term invokes the contemporary cult of sensibility, meaning a capacity for emotional sensitivity and delicate feeling. Sensibility in this sense was closely bound up with the ideology of femininity and thus had a double-edged quality: while it implied that women in particular were capable of elevated and reﬁned feeling, it also risked identifying them with feeling and sensation as opposed to reason.
Advice to the Fair Sex 43 Indeed, in these case histories Hunter deploys rhetorical strategies not unlike those Wollstonecraft uses. The language is highly emotive: the words ‘shame’, ‘terrors’, ‘terror and despair’, ‘fright and confusion’ ‘agonies’ cluster together. In the passage quoted above, Hunter also suggests an analogy between the woman giving birth in solitude and a hunted animal. On the surface, this text seems very different from Hunter’s Anatomia Uteri Humani Gravidi. In the essay, scientiﬁc argument and humane feeling threaten to collide and are just held together, in creative tension.
A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000 by Clare Hanson