The Female Body in Medicine and Literature

Edited by Andrew Mangham and Greta Depledge

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ISBN: 9781846318528

Publication: August 1, 2012

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The Female Body in Medicine and Literature features essays that explore literary texts in relation to the history of gynaecology and women’s surgery. Gender studies and feminist approaches to literature have become busy and enlightening fields of enquiry in recent times, yet there remains no single work that fully analyses the impact of women’s surgery on literary production or, conversely, ways in which literary trends have shaped the course of gynaecology and other branches of women’s medicine. This book will demonstrate how fiction and medicine have a long-established tradition of looking towards each other for inspiration and elucidation in questions of gender. Medical textbooks and pamphlets have consistently cited fictional plots and characterisations as a way of communicating complex or ‘sensitive’ ideas. Essays explore historical accounts of clinical procedures, the relationship between gynaecology and psychology, and cultural conceptions of motherhood, fertility, and the female organisation through a broad range of texts including Henry More’s Pre-Existency of the Soul (1659), Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1855), and Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues (1998). The Female Body in Medicine and Literature raises important theoretical questions on the relationship between popular culture, literature, and the growth of women’s medicine and will be required reading for scholars in gender studies, literary studies and the history of medicine. This collection explores the complex intersections between literature and the medical treatment of women between 1600 and 2000. Employing a range of methodologies, it furthers our understanding of the development of women’s medicine and comments on its wider cultural ramifications. Although there has been an increase in critical studies of women’s medicine in recent years, this collection is a key contributor to that field because it draws together essays on a wide range of new topics from varying disciplines. It features, for instance, studies of motherhood, fertility, clinical procedure, and the relationship between gynaecology and psychology. Besides offering essays on subjects that have received a lack of critical attention, the essays presented here are truly interdisciplinary; they explore the complex links between gynaecology, art, language, and philosophy, and underscore how popular art forms have served an important function in the formation of ‘women’s science’ prior to the twenty-first century. This book also demonstrates how a number of high-profile controversies were taken up and reworked by novelists, philosophers, and historians. Focusing on the vexed and convoluted story of women’s medicine, this volume offers new ways of thinking about gender, science, and the Western imagination.

Andrew Mangham is Lecturer in English at the University of Reading and the author of Violent Women and Sensation Fiction: Crime, Medicine and Victorian Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

Greta Depledge is a lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London

Notes on Contributors 1. Introduction - Andrew Mangham and Greta Depledge 2. ‘Difficulties, at present in no Degree clear’d up’: The Controversial Mother, 1600–1800 - Carolyn D.Williams 3. Monstrous Issues: The Uterus as Riddle in Early Modern Medical Texts - Lori Schroeder Haslem 4. Surveilling the Secrets of the Female Body: The Contest for Reproductive Authority in the Popular Press of the Seventeenth Century - Susan C. Staub 5. ‘Made in Imitation of Real Women and Children’: Obstetrical Machines in Eighteenth-Century Britain - Pam Lieske 6. Transcending the Sexed Body: Reason, Sympathy, and ‘Thinking Machines’ in the Debates over Male Midwifery - Sheena Sommers 7. Emma Martin and the Manhandled Womb in Early Victorian England - Dominic Janes 8. Narrating the Victorian Vagina: Charlotte Brontë and the Masturbating Woman - Emma L. E. Rees 9. ‘Those Parts Peculiar to Her Organization’: Some Observations on the History of Pelvimetry, a Nearly Forgotten Obstetric Subspeciality - Joanna Grant 10. ‘She read on more eagerly, almost breathlessly’: Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Challenge to Medical Depictions of Female Masturbation in 'The Doctor’s Wife' - Laurie Garrison 11. Mrs Robinson’s ‘Day-book of Iniquity’: Reading Bodies of/and Evidence in the Context of the 1858 Medical Reform Act - Janice M. Allan 12. Rebecca’s Womb: Irony and Gynaecology in 'Rebecca' - Madeleine K. Davies 13. Representations of Illegal Abortionists in England, 1900–1967 - Emma L. Jones 14. Afterword: Reading History as/and Vision - Karín Lesnik-Oberstein Bibliography Index

An engaging and important book.
Holly Furneaux  
University of Leicester

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 x 156 mm

231 Pages

ISBN: 9781846318528

Publication: August 1, 2012

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