Bulletin of the History of Medicine
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TO APPEAR IN - upcoming issues of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Introduction: Communicating Reproduction
By: Nick Hopwood, Peter Murray Jones, Lauren Kassell, and Jim Secord
(Posted July 23, 2015)
SUMMARY: Communication should be central to histories of reproduction, because it has structured how people do and do not reproduce. Yet communication has been so pervasive, and so various, that it is often taken for granted and the historical specificities overlooked. Making communication a frame for histories of reproduction can draw a fragmented field together, including by putting the promotion of esoteric ideas on a par with other practical activities. Paying communication close attention can revitalize the history of reproduction over the long term by highlighting continuities as well as the complex connections between new technologies and new approaches. Themes such as the power of storytelling, the claiming and challenging of expertise, and relations between knowledge and ignorance, secrecy and propriety also invite further study.
KEYWORDS: authority and expertise, communication, generation and reproduction, ignorance and knowledge, secrets and silences, telling stories
Performative Rituals for Conception and Childbirth in England, 900–1500
By: Peter Murray Jones and Lea T. Olsan
(Posted July 23, 2015)
SUMMARY: This study proposes that performative rituals—that is, verbal and physical acts that reiterate prior uses—enabled medieval women and men to negotiate the dangers and difficulties of conception and childbirth. It analyzes the rituals implicated in charms, prayers, amulets, and prayer rolls and traces the circulation of such rituals within medieval English society. Manuscript records from the Anglo-Saxon period to the late Middle Ages offer evidence of the interaction of oral and written means of communicating these rituals. Certain rituals were long-lived, though variants were introduced over time that reflected changing religious attitudes and the involvement of various interested parties, including local healers, doctors, and medical practitioners, as well as monks, friars, and users of vernacular remedy books. Although many of those who recommended or provided assistance through performative rituals were males, the practices often devolved upon women themselves, and their female companions or attendants.
KEYWORDS: ritual, childbirth, conception, charms, recipes, saints, liturgy, amulets, performativity, medieval
Reading and Hearing The Womans Booke in Early
By: Jennifer Richards
(Posted July 16, 2015)
SUMMARY: This essay takes seriously Thomas Raynalde’s advice in The Womans Booke that women might read this work aloud. The evidence I use to sketch the scene of reading includes Raynalde’s advice to readers in his long prologue, and also the kind of reading practice that his own writing represents. But I also go outside the text, considering what we know about the experience of listening to a book, and emphasizing the link between this practice and rhetorical education. I also examine the evidence left behind by two male readers: William Ward, who marked his copy of the 1565 edition privately, and Edward Poeton of Petworth, who represented instead a semipublic or shared reading: the evaluation of The Womans Booke and other books of generation by a Midwife and her Deputy in a fictional dialogue “The Midwives Deputie” (ca. 1630s).
KEYWORDS: Thomas Raynalde, midwifery, history of reading, male and female readers
“Your Whole Effort Has Been to Create Desire”: Reproducing Knowledge and Evading Censorship in the Nineteenth-Century Subscription Press
By: Alicia Puglionesi
(Posted July 16, 2015)
SUMMARY: Historians once regarded the passage of the Comstock Laws in 1873 as a death knell for the public discourse on gender, sex, and reproduction that thrived in the early nineteenth-century United States, but this view has given way to a more complex appreciation of the strategies available to actors seeking knowledge about the body. I examine some of these strategies in late-century health and hygiene manuals. Although certain discourses about sex became closed off, others persisted and evolved in the interstices of Comstock’s regulatory state. Readers’ demand for information did not abate in 1873; savvy publishers found different ways to meet it, utilizing suggestion, allusion, and nontextual cues from which active readers could extract useful knowledge. A once-public debate about the morality, effectiveness, and appropriate use of contraception had become coded in the pages of health and hygiene manuals, pointing readers to the burgeoning mass market for contraceptive devices as a locus of reproductive control.
KEYWORDS: reproductive control, Comstock Laws, health and hygiene manuals, censorship, readers and reading
The Making of a Best-Selling Book on Reproduction: Lennart Nilsson’s A Child Is Born
By: Solveig Jülich
(Posted July 24, 2015)
SUMMARY: This article examines the 1965 first edition of Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson’s Ett barn blir till (A Child Is Born) by placing the book back in the historical context in which it was produced, marketed, and reviewed. In particular it shows how medicine and the media in Sweden were intertwined in the process of incorporating Nilsson’s photographs of aborted embryos and fetuses into a best-selling book on the origin and development of human life. Nilsson’s work is related to other books in the same genre as well as the popular picture magazines of the time, in order to highlight how it aspired to offer something new. It is argued that a number of commercial and other interests were involved and that an immense effort went into not only making and promoting the book but also trying to control the meaning of the images.
KEYWORDS: Lennart Nilsson 1922–, A Child Is Born, reproductive medicine, medical photography, pregnancy advice books, media history, twentieth-century history, Sweden
Communicating a New Consciousness: Countercultural Print and the Home Birth Movement in the 1970s
By: Wendy Kline
(Posted July 24, 2015)
SUMMARY: This essay analyzes the production of three influential home birth texts of the 1970s written by self-proclaimed lay midwives that helped to fuel and sustain a movement in alternative birth practices. As part of a countercultural lifestyle print culture, early “how-to” books (Raven Lang’s The Birth Book, Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery) provided readers with vivid images and accounts in stark contrast to those of the sterile hospital delivery room. By the end of the decade, Rahima Baldwin’s more mainstream guidebook, Special Delivery, indicated an interest in translating home birth to a wider audience who did not necessarily identify as “countercultural.” Lay midwives who were authors of radical print texts in the 1970s played an important role in reshaping expectations about the birth experience, suggesting a need to rethink how we define the counterculture and its legacies.
KEYWORDS: reproduction, home birth, midwifery, feminism, counterculture