How male medical authorities and female literary authors struggled to describe the inner workings of the unseen – and competed to shape public understanding of it – is the focus of this engaging work by Holly Tucker. In illuminating the gender politics underlying dramatic changes in reproductive theory and practice, Tucker shows just how tenuous the boundaries of scientific “fact” and marvelous fictions were in early-modern France.
On the literary front, Tucker argues, women used the fairy tale to rethink the biology of childbirth and the sociopolitical uses to which it had been put. She shows that in references to midwives, infertility, sex selection, and embryological theories, fairy-tale writers experimented with alternative ways of understanding pregnancy. In so doing they suggested new ways in which to envision women, knowledge, and power in both the public and the private spheres.
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