Course: Literary Gestations: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Poetry and Prose

HC 222H

Professor: Elizabeth Raisanen

This course investigates pregnancy and childbirth in poetry and prose from the early modern era to the present in order to explore the ways in which literary representations of maternal bodily processes have changed with the development of the medical fields of obstetrics and gynecology.

Authors under consideration may include François Rabelais, Anne Bradstreet, Eliza Haywood, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anna Letitia Barbauld, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Hardy, Margaret Drabble, Erica Jong, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alicia Ostriker, Sharon Olds, Octavia Butler, and Brit Bennett.

We will examine not only the ways in which gestation and parturition are represented as physical processes in these authors’ texts, but also the metaphorical resonances of such processes and what this means for changing perceptions of pregnant women’s agency in private life, in the public sphere, and in literary expression.