Generating Bodies and Gendered Selves: The Rhetoric of Reproduction in Early Modern England

Overview

Generating Bodies and Gendered Selves examines the textured interrelations between medical writing generation and childbirth-what we now call reproduction-and emerging notions of selfhood in early modern England. At a time when medical texts first appeared in English in large numbers and the first signs of modern medical theory and practice were emerging, medical discourse of the body was richly interwoven with cultural concerns.

Through close readings of a wide range of ...

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Overview

Generating Bodies and Gendered Selves examines the textured interrelations between medical writing generation and childbirth-what we now call reproduction-and emerging notions of selfhood in early modern England. At a time when medical texts first appeared in English in large numbers and the first signs of modern medical theory and practice were emerging, medical discourse of the body was richly interwoven with cultural concerns.

Through close readings of a wide range of English-language medical texts from the mid-sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, from learned anatomies and works of observational embryology to commercial midwifery manuals, Keller unearths the assumptions about bodies and selves that medical language enfolds. When wombs are described as "free" but nonetheless "bridled" to the bone; when sperm are imagined as minute "adventurers" seeking a safe spot to be "nursed"; and when embryos are described as "free-born," fully "independent" from the females who bear them, the rhetorical formulations of generating bodies seem clearly to implicate ideas about the gendered self.

Keller shows how early modern English medicine inscribes in its generating bodies the manifold questions about gender, politics, and philosophy that together give rise to the modern Western liberal self-a historically constrained (and, Keller argues, a historically aberrant) notion of the self as autonomous, fully rational, and thoroughly male.

About the Author:
Eve Keller is associate professor of English at Fordham University in New York

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Product Details

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
List of Abbreviations     xi
Introduction     3
On Either Side of the Early Modern: Posthuman and Premodern Bodies and Selves     9
Ancient Revisions
Subjectified Parts and Supervenient Selves: Rewriting Galenism in Crooke's Microcosmographia     47
Fixing the Female: Books of Practical Physic for Women     71
Modern Modulations
Making Up for Losses: The Workings of Gender in Harvey's De generatione animalium     101
Embryonic Individuals: Mechanism, Embryology, and Modern Man     125
The Masculine Subject of Touch: Case Histories from the Birthing Room     156
Epilogue     187
Notes     191
Bibliography     225
Index     239
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