By Clare Hanson
Hanson explores the several ways that being pregnant has been developed and interpreted in Britain during the last 250 years. Drawing on quite a lot of resources, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant recommendation books, literary texts, renowned fiction and visible pictures, she analyzes altering attitudes to key concerns resembling the relative rights of mom and fetus and the measure to which clinical intervention is appropriate in being pregnant. Hanson additionally considers the consequences of scientific and social adjustments at the subjective adventure of pregnancy.
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Additional info for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000
A cold dew covered my face – I felt the room turn round with me, and fell totally insensible on the ﬂoor. (Vol. 2, pp. 117–18) Particularly notable in this passage is a preoccupation with facial expression. Laura’s distress is evident from the ‘changes of her countenance’; her tormentor’s effects are gained through ‘the wild contortions of his countenance’; ﬁnally, before she swoons, Laura’s face is covered by ‘a cold dew’. It could be argued that the face is the primary site or surface on which the somatic effects of emotion are visible – hence Smith’s emphasis.
Hence the emphasis on women’s chastity to ensure that the line of inheritance was secured for legitimate sons. Wollstonecraft’s unﬁnished novel Maria focuses sharply on this issue. Maria has been married against her will to a brutish and dissipated husband, who steadily spends the money for which he has married her. Soon after she becomes pregnant, she discovers that he has been encouraging another man to have an affair with her in the hope of securing a necessary loan. She resolves to leave, but in order to keep this resolution Wollstonecraft suggests, signiﬁcantly, that she has to ‘disengage’ mind and body, as though to act as a rational creature 30 A Cultural History of Pregnancy were incompatible with pregnant embodiment.
She scorns conventional marriage and painstakingly defends her position against those who argue that her union is immoral in the eyes of God. Yet, although Adeline thinks that her position is founded on reason, she discovers too late that reason, unlike ‘amusing’ speculation, must take into account the ‘world as it is’ in formulating principles of behaviour. Seven months into her pregnancy, she sees some children playing on a terrace but excluding one boy from their game. When she asks why, she is told that he is a bastard and so is not ﬁt company for the others.
A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000 by Clare Hanson