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Title: Maternal impressions : the discourse of maternal imagination in the Eighteenth Century
Author: Buckley, Jenifer
ISNI:       0000 0004 5362 0385
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2014
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Maternal imagination is the notion that a pregnant woman could alter the development of her foetus with the power of her thoughts and feelings. At the beginning of the long eighteenth century this notion circulated in both medical and popular understandings of pregnancy, however by the nineteenth century the concept was largely dismissed in the medico-­scientific community. This thesis charts the discursive migration of the concept of maternal imagination in a way that complicates the standard chronology. I argue that the discourse was widely dispersed and played a role in significant cultural debates concerning man-­midwifery, politeness, domestic hierarchy, gender roles, and the philosophy of creative imagination. Exploring the rich interplay of medicine and literature, the thesis examines a range of print material such as newspapers, pamphlets, novels, popular health guides, midwifery treatises and poetry. This broad scope has demonstrated contradictions inherent within the discourse, such as the increasing sense that imagination was at once both creative and destructive. Those who employed the discourse appropriated the concept of maternal imagination to support a range of agendas; to satirise or support man-­midwives, to create distrust or sympathy for women, or to ascribe either authority or culpability to the power of imagination. Metamorphosing through the age of politeness, the culture of sensibility and the related glorification of maternity, the discourse of maternal imagination, rather than diminishing as has often been assumed, reaches an apex in the late eighteenth-­ entury assimilation of its physiological aspects into the language of Romantic creativity. In a duality typical of its complex evolution, the discourse both contributes to the nineteenth-­century view of a fragile female intellect, and to a peculiarly pathological version of the imagination process that could apply to both women and men.
Supervisor: Hanson, Sheila ; Clery, Emma Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature