Narrating Pregnancy and Childbirth: Infanticide and the Dramatization of Reproductive Knowledge
AbstractIn early modern England, infanticide was a crime overwhelmingly associated with women. Both popular texts and legal records depict women accused of infanticide as mothers acting against nature. These figures, however, do not often appear in the period’s drama. Instead, early modern drama includes fictionalized mothers who kill their children beyond infancy and into adulthood. By eschewing portrayals of neonaticide and the trials associated with it, the drama highlights a dependency upon female characters’ verbal narratives of the reproductive body that reinforces pregnancy’s unstable epistemology. I argue that the flexibility of this epistemology allows women, whether female characters in drama or historical women on trial, to distance themselves from the crime of infanticide by reconstructing narratives of both pregnancy and childbirth. Sharing rhetorical devices with the testimonies of women accused of infanticide, dramatic mothers such as Videna in The Tragedie of Gorboduc and Brunhalt in Thierry and Theodoret linguistically sever the biological ties between mother and child, thus disrupting conventional portrayals of reproduction. These parallel strategies position the reproductive female body as a site of resistance to the legal mechanisms designed to interpret it. View Full-Text
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Steinway, E. Narrating Pregnancy and Childbirth: Infanticide and the Dramatization of Reproductive Knowledge. Humanities 2018, 7, 120.
Steinway E. Narrating Pregnancy and Childbirth: Infanticide and the Dramatization of Reproductive Knowledge. Humanities. 2018; 7(4):120.Chicago/Turabian Style
Steinway, Elizabeth. 2018. "Narrating Pregnancy and Childbirth: Infanticide and the Dramatization of Reproductive Knowledge." Humanities 7, no. 4: 120.
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