Shakespearean Maternities: Crises of Conception in Early Modern England

Shakespearean Maternities: Crises of Conception in Early Modern England

By: Chris Laoutaris (author)Hardback

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This study explores maternity in the 'disciplines' of early modern England. Placing the reproductive female body centre-stage in Shakespeare's theatre, Laoutaris ranges beyond the domestic sphere in which the rituals of childbirth, midwifery and wet-nursing were performed in order to recuperate the wider intellectual, epistemological, and archaeological significance of maternity to the Renaissance imagination. Focusing on 'anatomy' in Hamlet, 'natural history' in The Tempest, 'demonology' in Macbeth, and 'heraldry' in Antony and Cleopatra, this book reveals the ways in which the maternal body was figured in, and in turn contributed towards the re-conceptualisation of, bodies of knowledge. The relevance of the maternal to early pedagogical, aesthetic, and scientific disciplines, Laoutaris argues, makes itself felt when crises overturn the desired outcomes of birth and nurture. Instances of tragic intervention - such as disease, bewitchment, monstrosity, and death - expose the potentially destabilising power of maternity, dismantling the epistemological certainties with which the maternal body had been invested in the interests of masculine legitimation. Shakespeare resists a monolithic concept of motherhood, presenting instead a range of contested 'maternities' which challenge the distinctive 'ways of knowing' these early disciplines worked to impose on the order of created nature. Key Features *Provides a new interpretation of a subject which is becoming increasingly popular among Shakespeare scholars, cultural and medical historians, and feminist critics *Focuses on four of Shakespeare's best-loved plays *Presents striking visual material which forms a central component of the book's critical methodology, including anatomical plates, cabinets of curiosity, early modern follies and grottoes, archaeological discoveries, artefacts of witchcraft and superstition, early natural historical specimens, Renaissance 'monsters', ceramics, portraiture, funerary monuments and statuary *Offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of maternity, encompassing research methods drawn from a range of academic fields, including literary studies, gender studies, the history of art, archaeology, and the history of the sciences

About Author

Chris Laoutaris is a British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at University College London. He is currently working on a biography, The Queen's Soldier: The Life and Works of Elizabeth Russell (1528-1609).


Acknowledgements; Note on the Text; List of Illustrations; Introduction: Constructing Maternal Knowledge; 1. Flesh and Stone: Dissecting Maternity in the Theatre of Anatomy; 2. The Cabinet of Wonders: Monstrous Conceptions in the Theatre of Nature; 3. Strange Labours: Maternity and Maleficium in the Theatre of Justice; 4. Speaking Stones: Memory and Maternity in the Theatre of Death; Postscript; Selected Bibliography; Index.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780748624362
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 320
  • ID: 9780748624362
  • weight: 691
  • ISBN10: 0748624368

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