By Kirk D. Read
The pregnant, birthing, and nurturing physique is a habitual topos in early sleek French literature. Such our bodies, usually metaphors for matters and anxieties acquiring to the gendered keep an eye on of social and political associations, got a lot in their descriptive strength from contemporaneous clinical and medical discourse. during this examine, Kirk learn brings jointly literary and clinical texts that symbolize a number perspectives, from lyric poets, satirists and polemicists, to midwives and surgeons, all of whom discover the preferred 16th- and early seventeenth-century narratives of start in France. even if the rhetoric of birthing was once commonplace, techniques and negotiations depended upon intercourse and gender; this examine considers the male, girl, and hermaphroditic adventure, providing either an research of women's reports to make certain, but in addition beginning onto the views of non-female birthers and their position within the social and political weather of early sleek France. The writers explored contain Rabelais, Madeleine and Catherine Des Roches, Louise Boursier, Pierre de Ronsard, Pierre Boaistuau and Jacques Duval. learn additionally explores the results of the metaphorical use of replica, corresponding to the presentation of literary paintings as offspring and the poet/mentor courting as that of a suckling baby. Foregrounded within the examine are the questions of what it ability for ladies to include organic and literary replica and the way male appropriation of the birthing physique affects the challenge of making new literary traditions. additionally, via exploring the situations of indeterminate birthing entities and the social anxiousness that informs them, learn complicates the binarisms at paintings within the vexed terrain of sexuality, intercourse, and gender during this interval. finally, learn considers how the narrative of beginning produces ancient conceptions of identification, authority, and gender.
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Additional resources for Birthing Bodies in Early Modern France: Stories of Gender and Reproduction
But there is a richness and an opportunity for reinterpretation that may take our appreciation of the text to more nuanced gendered outcomes. Madeleine Jeay and Kathleen Garay’s presentation of The Distaff Gospels is instructive in this way: The role of a man putting into writing what is presented as the oral tradition of women is a complex one, made even more so here by the presence of a double masculine influence: that of the author and his constructed alter ego, the scribe. Although he presents himself as their friend and ally, with a sense of superiority derived both from his gender and from his possession of literacy, the scribe nevertheless ironically distances himself from what he depicts as the ridiculous and trivial stories told by the women.
I read this parodical text alongside contemporaneous works that take up medical anomalies, such as Pierre Boaistuau’s Histoires prodigieuses—a hugely popular text from the previous century reprinted in multiple editions thereafter—as well as the more medically (and juridically) inspired Des Hermaphrodits, by the surgeon Jacques Duval. Hermaphrodite scholar Kathleen Long’s important work on these texts greatly informs my investigation of this medical and literary phenomenon and prompts us to push further into a view to sexual ambiguity or transgression as perhaps the richest and most salient domain for expanding the discussion of birthing bodies as linked to social and political destiny.
Their attenuated introductory conversation signals a growing health for both, a change remarked upon by one of the first arrivals: “Sans mentir, je te trouve plus belle que jamais. Asseurement, les enfans t’embellissent: je te conseille d’en recommencer un bien tost” [It’s no lie, I find you more beautiful than ever. To be sure, babies are adding to your beauty: I would advise you to start again soon] (120). Soon after the gossiping visitors leave that day, the scribe bounds from his hiding place: “Je sortis incontinent après et me rangeay auprès de l’accouchée, pour luy monstrer mon ample memoire; je vous laisse à penser si ce fut sans rire” [I leapt out straightaway and took my place beside the new mother in order to show her my ample memoir; I leave it to your imagination as to whether or not we could contain our laughter] (145).
Birthing Bodies in Early Modern France: Stories of Gender and Reproduction by Kirk D. Read