The Female Body in Medicine and Literature

The Female Body in Medicine and Literature

The Female Body in Medicine and Literature

The Female Body in Medicine and Literature

Synopsis

Drawing on a range of texts from the seventeenth century to the present, "The Female Body in Medicine and Literature" explores accounts of motherhood, fertility, and clinical procedures for what they have to tell us about the development of women's medicine. The essays here offer nuanced historical analyses of subjects that have received little critical attention, including the relationship between gynecology and psychology and the influence of popular art forms on so-called women's science prior to the twenty-first century. Taken together, these essays offer a wealth of insight into the medical treatment of women and will appeal to scholars in gender studies, literature, and the history of medicine.

Excerpt

Andrew Mangham and Greta Depledge

This collection draws on two research contexts that are distinct in their disciplinary character yet linked inexorably in the development of British culture: literature and the history of medicine. Like many of the historicist and interdisciplinary studies that have emerged in recent years, this volume aims to draw on the strengths of two forms of knowledge and their attendant methodological practices in order to provide a thoughtful and productive consideration of the ‘treatment’ of the female body between, approximately, 1600 and 2000. the positioning of women vis-à-vis the man of science is a subject that enters a busy and exciting field of study: feminist approaches to literature and historical considerations of medicine have, for quite some time now, retained an unyielding focus on the female body. Yet although there have been some excellent discussions of the links between psychiatric treatments of women and literature, there remains no single work, to date, that fully explores the impact of women’s surgery, gynaecology, and obstetrics on literary production. Nor has there been, conversely, a sustained consideration of how literary trends and styles have shaped the course of gynaecology and other branches of women’s medicine. Working at the interface of medical history from another direction (that which acknowledges literature as a key player in the formation of our current understandings of the female body), this volume seeks to augment the existing body of work by stressing the ways in which the science draws upon, modifies, and learns from the ‘metaphors, myths, and narrative patterns’ of popular literature.

Historical considerations of the development of women’s medicine have tended to use literary models sparsely; and when used at all, they have been briefly and inadequately acknowledged as evidence of how a particular development in medicine became so pervasive that literary figures exploited it as a means of making their novels marketable and topical. We do not suggest that in many cases this is untrue, but we do aim to underscore . . .

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