Winter 2019 HC 222H: Literary Gestations: Pregnancy and Childbirth in Poetry and Prose

Winter Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Elizabeth Raisanen

4.00 credits

CRN 23348: Wednesday & Friday, 10:00 – 11:20 @ CHA 202

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, 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. This course will prompt us to explore how birth practices and gender identities, particularly those related to maternity, are constructed.