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Title: 'Those sweet and benign humours that Nature sends monthly' : accounting for menstruation in early-modern England
Author: Read, Sara L.
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis builds upon the existing scholarship such as that by Patricia Crawford, Helen King, Alexandra Lord, and Michael Stolberg, to analyse the ways that all aspects of menstruation were accounted for in early-modern England. Broadly informed by cultural materialism, and starting with the wide-range of medical treatises that were published in the early modern period, which theorise the female body, the thesis incorporates a broad range of material from private journals, diaries, and letters to the more public conventionally literary texts such as poetry, prose fiction, and plays. The thesis is structured according to the physiological order of vaginal bleeding as understood in the early-modern period. Starting with menarche the thesis argues that just as the medical texts broadly agree that the ideal age for menarche is fourteen, so social conventions also saw this as a significant age in a girl s growth to maturity. Since fourteen was considered to be the optimum age for menarche any wide variation in this age was seen as problematic; the thesis includes analysis, therefore of early and late menarche. The thesis next examines the surviving accounts of menstruation, arguing that menstruation was something that women were disinclined to write about, preferring to manage the condition privately. The chapter offers an account of how women might have managed the practical aspects of their cycle such as sanitary protection, theorising that the negative associations of menstrual blood in the Bible influence women s position on the matter. The other significant occasions of female bleeding were hymenal and lochial bleeding and the thesis argues that these were seen as analogous to menstrual bleeding, and theorised as such. The thesis demonstrates that hymenal blood was eroticised in the period because of the importance of virginity to this society. Like all occasions of bleeding, pregnancy and lochial bleeding was seen as a dangerous event. The thesis concludes with a review of the presentation of menopause in the period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Early-modern body ; Menstruation ; Adolescence ; Menopause ; Life writing ; Death ; Pregnancy