By Clare Hanson
Hanson explores different ways that being pregnant has been developed and interpreted in Britain over the past 250 years. Drawing on a variety of assets, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant recommendation books, literary texts, renowned fiction and visible photographs, she analyzes altering attitudes to key concerns resembling the relative rights of mom and fetus and the measure to which scientific intervention is suitable in being pregnant. Hanson additionally considers the consequences of clinical 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
Indeed, some of Denman’s contemporaries explicitly afﬁrm that the ‘irritability’ of the uterus in pregnancy can lead to states of despondency bordering on insanity. John Grigg avers that ‘throughout the whole period of pregnancy, women are more or less liable to dejection of spirits, hysteric affections, and sometimes to actual fainting’ (p. 103) and Alexander Hamilton classes fainting and ‘nervous or hysteric ﬁts’ among the disorders of pregnancy (p. 117). Martha Mears is the only writer who attempts to counter such negative views of irritability.
In Laura’s case the damage is permanent, not only because her son dies but because she never regains her earlier ﬁrmness of mind. ’29 Laura’s maternal impressions lead to a permanent weakening of the intellect, and in this she is the precursor of various nineteenth-century ﬁctional heroines who suffer from the ‘insanity of pregnancy’. Yet through the character of Medora, Smith suggests that excess sensibility, with all its damaging effects, can and must be resisted. Medora learns from her mother’s story, so that when she is threatened with rape she speaks up against her attackers, using the language of reason rather than of feeling to defend herself.
By far the most inﬂuential discussion of illegitimacy among the poorer classes was William Hunter’s essay on infanticide, published four years before Maria in 1794. The essay was written in defence of women who were, in Hunter’s view, often falsely accused of infanticide. Rather like Woolf’s Three Guineas, it is framed as an expanded response to a letter, here from a country magistrate seeking Hunter’s advice in defending a girl accused of infanticide. 42 On the one hand, he marshals detailed physiological and pathological information to support his argument for the difﬁculty of establishing whether or not a child has been stillborn.