Among the elementary human stories, parenthood has tended to go without saying. Compared to the spectacular attachments of romantic love, it is only the predictable sequel. Compared to the passions of childhood, it is just a background. But in recent decades, far-reaching changes in typical family forms and in procreative possibilities (through reproductive technologies) have brought out new questions. Why do people want (or not want) to be parents? How has the 'choice' first enabled by contraception changed the meaning of parenthood? Looking not only at new parental parts but at older parental stories, in novels and other works, this fascinating book offers fresh angles and arguments for thinking about parenthood today.
Rachel Bowlby is Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. Her previous books include Just Looking and Carried Away, both about the history of shopping; Still Crazy After All These Years: Women, Writing and Psychoanalysis; Shopping with Freud; Feminist Destinations and Further Essays on Virginia Woolf; and Freudian Mythologies: Greek Tragedy and Modern Identities.
Introduction ; 1. Changing Conceptions ; 2. Surrogates and Other Mothers ; 3. Reproductive Choice: A Prehistory ; 4. Foundling Fathers and Mothers ; 5. Childlessness: Euripides' Medea ; 6. A Tale of Two Parents: Charles Dickens's Great Expectations ; 7. Finding a Life: George Eliot's Silas Marner ; 8. His and Hers: Henry Fielding's Tom Jones ; 9. Placement: Jane Austen's Mansfield Park ; 10. At All Costs: George Moore's Esther Waters ; 11. Between Parents: Henry James's What Maisie Knew ; 12. Parental Secrets in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge ; 13. 'I Had Barbara': Women's Ties and Edith Wharton's 'Roman Fever' ; Afterword