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Imagining Reproduction: The Politics of Reproduction, Technology and the Woman Machine

Abstract

Scholars widely assume that the term generation, is preferable to reproduction in the context of early modern history, based on the premise that reproduction to mean procreation was not in use until the end of the eighteenth century. This shift in usage presumably corresponds to the rise of mechanistic philosophy; feminist scholarship, particularly that deriving from the hostile critique fashionable in the 1980s has claimed reproduction is associated with medical practitioners’ perceptions of women as baby-producing machines. However, this interpretation, whether in the interests of gender politics or reiterated in more sympathetic histories, misrepresents the historical record.

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Notes

  1. A Muri, The Enlightenment Cyborg: A History of Communications and Control in the Human Machine, 1660–1830 (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2007), 166–225.

  2. C Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980; reprint, New York: HarperCollins, 1990), 2.

  3. Ibid., 156.

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  5. Ibid., 483–4.

  6. A Henderson, Romantic Identities: Varieties of Subjectivity 1774–1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), 28.

  7. Ibid., 11.

  8. Ibid., 12.

  9. L Chaber, “Matriarchal Mirror: Women and Capital in Moll Flanders,PMLA 97.2 (1982): 212.

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  11. Chaber, 218.

  12. Ibid., 221.

  13. Defoe, 174.

  14. Ibid., 173.

  15. Henderson, 14.

  16. Ibid., 16.

  17. William Smellie, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery, the fourth edition, corrected (London, 1762), 252.

  18. John Burton, A Letter to William Smellie, M.D. Containing Critical and Practical Remarks Upon his Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery (London, 1753), 147.

  19. Henderson, 18.

  20. Cited in Henderson, 18.

  21. Nihell, 52.

  22. Henderson, 18–19.

  23. B Blackwell, “Tristram Shandy and the Theater of the Mechanical Mother,” ELH 68 (2001): 96.

  24. Henderson, 20.

  25. W Hunter, Two Introductory Lectures (London, 1784), 96.

  26. Hunter, 63.

  27. Hunter, 93.

  28. Nihell, 31–2.

  29. R McGrath, Seeing Her Sex: Medical Archives and the Female Body (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2002), 30–31.

  30. Ibid., 31–2.

  31. Ibid., 68.

  32. Smellie, Treatise, 222–3.

  33. M Stephen, Domestic Midwife; or, The Best Means of Preventing Danger in Child-birth (London, 1795), 68.

  34. W Smellie, A Set of Anatomical Tables (Edinburgh, 1780), 4, 15.

  35. W Smellie, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery (London, 1752–64), 62–3.

  36. Smellie, A Sett of Anatomical Tables, 1754; Charles Jenty, The Demonstrations of a Pregnant Uterus, 1757; and William Hunter, The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, 1774.

  37. McGrath, 65–6.

  38. Smellie 5; Charles Jenty, The Demonstrations of a Pregnant Uterus (London, 1758), 5.

  39. McGrath, 32.

  40. H Crooke, Mikrokosmographia a Description of the Body of Man (London, 1615), 221.

  41. M Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible (London, 1683), n.p.

  42. E Chambers, Cyclopædia (London, 1728), 133.

  43. Ibid., 103.

  44. Ibid., 886.

  45. E Chambers, Cyclopædia (London, 1786–88), n.p.

  46. J Entick, The New Spelling Dictionary (London, 1766), n.p..

  47. J Entick, The New Spelling Dictionary, (London, 1800), n.p..

  48. T Sheridan, A General Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1780), n.p.

  49. N Bailey, An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, the second edition (London, 1724).

  50. T Needham, “A Summary of Some Late Observations upon the Generation, Composition, and Decomposition of Animal and Vegetable Substances,” Philosophical Transactions 45 (1748): 624–5.

  51. F Jacob, The Logic of Life: A History of Heredity, trans. Betty E. Spillmann (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1973), 33.

  52. Ibid., 19.

  53. Ibid., 62–3.

  54. S Roe, “The Life Sciences,” in The Cambridge History of Science, Volume 4: The Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003), 406.

  55. T Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1990), 154–5.

  56. L Jordanova, “Interrogating the Concept of Reproduction in the Eighteenth Century,” Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, ed. Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp (Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1995), 372.

  57. Ibid., 372–3.

  58. J Fisher, The Answere Vnto the Nine Points of Controuersy, Proposed by Our Late Soueraygne (Saint-Omer, 1626), 270–71. (Spelling has been modernized).

  59. R Boyle, Some Physico-theological Considerations About the Possibility of the Resurrection (London, 1675), 34.

  60. W Coward, Second Thoughts Concerning Human Soul (London, 1702), 431.

  61. F Blackburne, An Historical View of the Controversy Concerning an Intermediate State and the Separate Existence of the Soul Between Death and the General Resurrection (London, 1772), 231.

  62. L Forman Cody, Birthing the Nation: Sex, Science, and the Conception of Eighteenth-Century Britons (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005), 20–21.

  63. Ibid., 22.

  64. Jordanova, 374.

  65. Bureau d’adresse et de rencontre, A General Collection of Discourses of the Virtuosi of France, trans. G. Havers (London, 1664), 574.

  66. G Leti, Il Nipotismo di Roma, or, The History of the Popes Nephews From the Time of Sixtus the IV to the Death of the Last Pope Alexander the VII (1669), 144.

  67. J Marten, A Treatise of the Venereal Disease (London, 1711), 291.

  68. N Bailey, Dictionarium Britannicum (London, 1730), n.p.

  69. J de la Mettrie, Man a Machine, trans. Marquiss d’Argens (London, 1749), 35.

  70. H Boerhaave, Dr. Boerhaave’s Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic Vol. 1 (London, 1742), 313.

  71. N Pluche, The Truth of the Gospel Demonstrated (London, 1751), 42–3.

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Muri, A. Imagining Reproduction: The Politics of Reproduction, Technology and the Woman Machine. J Med Humanit 31, 53–67 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-009-9102-8

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Keywords

  • Woman machine
  • Reproduction
  • Gender politics
  • Obstetrics
  • Man-midwives