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The Regulation of Female Fertility and the Maternal Body in French Medical and Literary Writing, 1870-1914

Fagan, Beatrice (2021) The Regulation of Female Fertility and the Maternal Body in French Medical and Literary Writing, 1870-1914. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.87820) (KAR id:87820)


This thesis examines the regulation of female fertility and the maternal body in medical and literary writing from 1870 to 1914. Drawing upon a wide range of sources, including medical, literary and popular texts, it situates female fecundity and its impact upon the body within the depopulation crisis of late nineteenth-century France, using historicist and Foucauldian approaches to study representations of the female body and interrogate how its regulation can be linked to broader socio-political goals. It argues that, during this period, ideologies of fertility and the maternal body become invested with anxiety over depopulation, neo-Malthusianism, feminism and industrial changes. By focusing on forms of corporeal, spatial, social and medical regulation, it extends recent work on disciplinary knowledge and boundaries by situating fertility within the nineteenth-century focus on orderly and productive bodies. Included in this focus is analysis of ideologies of the leaking and unstable maternal body as I examine fantasies and anxieties of regulation and leakage, alongside new medical technologies and methods of fertility management. Studying medical engagement with female fertility and the maternal body, including the medical discipline of puericulture, the thesis challenges notions of 'medical progress' through examination of methods of fertility management and growing anxiety over medical malpractice and corruption. This thesis expands previous scholarship through its broad range of source material, particularly its use of popular sources, including romans sociaux and quasi-medical pamphlets and handbooks. Furthermore, its focus on the regulation of fertility extends recent scholarship on gender and maternity by arguing that nineteenth-century representations of leakage and corporeal boundaries can be situated within a much broader contemporary focus on (re)productivity and the distribution, circulation and economy of bodies, liquids and resources. Through this study, I posit that, from 1870-1914, the regulation of female fertility and the maternal body is a marker of medical, social and political upheaval, and becomes a locus for anxieties over the future of France. The thesis recontextualises discourses of female fertility and the maternal body, broadening understandings of how disciplinary power and the socio-political anxieties of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France became manifested within representations of the female body.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Duffy, Larry
Thesis advisor: Haustein, Katja
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.87820
Uncontrolled keywords: Maternity fertility regulation nineteenth-century French literature medical literary popular reproduction depopulation motherhood abortion sterilisation contraception breastfeeding pregnancy wet-nursing
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Funders: [37325] UNSPECIFIED
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2021 11:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 May 2024 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Fagan, Beatrice.

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