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The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton, Linda Wagner-Martin
Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy, Alymer Maude, Louise Maude

Titus Andronicus (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Titus Andronicus - William Shakespeare Think Quentin Tarantino and Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

Screw Hamlet’s anguished indecision, Macbeth’s squeamishness, Lear’s wails in the wilderness, or Lady Macbeth’s protracted guilt. This is Shakespeare’s action adventure, where characters act seemingly on impulse, and no deed is too terrible to contemplate. Shakespeare drains Titus Andronicus of the type of internal monologues typically characterizing his serious plays, and serves us – literally and figuratively – relentless revenge. Yet, in the manner Kill Bill delivers with style and velocity, this drama fascinates at the same time it horrifies. What compelled me – generally a sound sleeper – to wake up in the middle of the night, just to finish this play?

While pockets of poetry emerge, here Shakespeare’s language, like his characters’ actions, is powerful and direct. I could no more desert this play’s forward momentum than I could hop off a roller coaster mid-ride. Within the first scene, Titus Andronicus, ostensibly a noble character, ignores Tamora’s plea for mercy and has her son killed – brutally. Moments later, when Titus’s own son blocks his path, Titus kills him as quickly as one might swat a fly.

And flies surface more than once in the play. When Marcus kills a fly, as Titus bemoans Lavinia’s fate, Titus’s outrage seems laughable:

But how, if that fly had a father and mother?
How would he hang his slender gilded wings,
And buzz lamenting doings in the air!
Poor harmless fly,
That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
Came here to make us merry! and thou hast
kill'd him.

Only Marcus’s protest that the fly is black, like the empress’s Moor and thus deserving of death, dispels Titus’s real or feigned fury. Aaron, Tamora’s lover, also speaks of flies when he laments that he was not able to do even more evil acts:

Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

Though cast as the play’s central villain—as if to contrast with the other more civilized characters—Aaron’s actions create hardly a ripple. In this bloody dramorama, his murders and mayhem contribute only drops. Titus’s final revenge makes Aaron seem meek.

Titus Andronicus’s fierce energy mesmerizes, and Shakespeare succeeds in his intention to deliver raw experience, unfettered by conscience and regret.

Television Studies: The Key Concepts (Routledge Key Guides)

Television Studies: The Key Concepts - Bernadette Casey

A book outdated the instant it was published.

Some topics are destined to become outdated shortly after they’re published; studies of popular culture or social networking fall in this category, because the fields are changing so quickly. Oddly, Television Studies: The Key Concepts, despite its edgy cover, was already outdated in 2002, the year it was published. The book is arranged like a glossary, with key concepts bolded and short, encyclopedic entries following.

Consider the entry on “Reality Television.” In 2002, “reality television” was a concept readily understood. In popular terms, it did not refer to talk shows or game shows or on-the-scene documentaries, though these types of shows were often fairly unscripted and live. Conceptually, “reality television” referred to television shows, such as the early An American Family, which aired in the 1970s, or Real World, first shown in 1992, where real-life people are followed during their daily lives, in a particular situation, or in a challenge where participants are eliminated, etc. Given that this genre was well established by 2002, it’s peculiar the authors don’t go far beyond the broader, more dated, sense of the concept (e.g., game shows, documentaries, etc.).

Other entries, such as the one on “Feminism” are fraught with generalizations and assumptions. To read this entry, one would think feminism was a complete failure and over and done with. The most recent study cited is that of Camille Paglia (Sexual Personae), who is a rather well-known anti-feminist. To be credible, most reference books at least aim at some semblance of objectivity. Certainly a less controversial figure might have been chosen. Also, for a book published in 2002, a 1990 citation is dated.

In all, the book is unhelpful, and the concepts chosen for its glossary entries are peculiar – comedy (yes), hegemony (why??), mass culture (yes), polysemy (are you kidding?).

Juliette Low, Girl Scout (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Juliette Low, Girl Scout (Childhood of Famous Americans) - Helen Boyd Higgins I think I read every one of these biographies of the childhood of famous Americans. It was series, and I thought the covers were a solid blue.

Through the Custom-House

Through the Custom-House: Nineteenth-Century American Fiction and Modern Theory - John Carlos Rowe This book is a tragedy - the author just didn't realize it.

John Carlos Rowe, in the middle of Through the Custom House, deconstructs Herman Melville’s, “Bartleby the Scrivener,” by using theories of Jacques Derrida. Rowe describes Bartleby’s initial willingness to do the copy work of a scrivener as well as his inexplicable refusal to “pick up or post messages” (126). By effectively blocking the origins and ends of communications, Bartleby becomes analogous, for Rowe, for deconstruction’s indeterminant signifier. Like the messages Bartleby refuses to send or receive, Derrida’s signifier, does not always arrive its destination. Paradoxically, Rowe’s entire book dramatizes this situation of aborted communication. Rowe mobilizes a great number of signifiers—the book’s proposed aims—that successfully efface meaning and certainly never arrive at their destination.

Initially, Rowe posits an interesting thesis: to read “six nineteenth-century prose texts in relation to six critical problems that exemplify the modern debate concerning representation and signification” (xi). Had Rowe followed his thesis through he might have written a provocative and useful book. What he does do, however, is far more complicated and far less worthwhile. Despite the relatively straightforward agenda he proposed, Rowe’s more labyrinthine intentions are laid out in detail in the rest of the Preface and the first chapter. And Rowe needs every one of the thirty pages to justify what he hopes to accomplish.

Consider his stated aims: “In the subsequent chapters, I use Heidegger’s late essays to read Thoreau’s A Week, Sartre’s work on the imagination to analyze Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance, Freud’s critique of unified consciousness to interpret Poe’s Narrative of A. Gordom Pym, Derrida’s revision of Freud’s dynamic model of the psyche to interpret Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Nietzsche’s subversion of the subject to read Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, and the structural linguistics of Saussure and Benveniste to explore problems of narrative authority in James’s Sacred Fount” (xii) …Enough work for six volumes? Apparently not. Rowe’s book barely exceeds two hundred pages, and thirty of these pages are devoted to explaining why he uses somewhat marginalized texts that are in turn scrutinized through the optics of somewhat marginalized ideas of the theorists he’s selected.

I’ve read some of Heidegger, for example, but did not know, off hand, the ideological differences between Heidegger’s “late essays” versus his earlier work or what was meant, exactly, by “Derrida’s revision of Freud’s dynamic model of the psyche.” This would prove a serious liability, for the most comprehensive explanation of Heideggerian theory Rowe provides is in a paragraph from chapter one:

Thoreau’s A Week is read in terms of Heidegger’s effort in his late essays to reconceptualize the status of philosophic discourse, notably by relating poetry and thinking according to their mutual concern with the nature of language. This Heidegerrian “conversation” between poetry and language establishes one of the primary motifs in the remainder of this study, which regards the disciplinary boundaries that traditionally distinguish different humanistic discourses as indications of the necessary defenses employed by any determinate code to establish its claims to truth and meaning. (2)

This is not good writing and rarely—particularly when Rowe explains theory—does it get any better. A few lines down, Rowe explains his proposed use of Sartre and Hawthorne:

The Blithedale Romance is used as the focus for a comparative discussion of Hawthorne’s poetic conception of the imagination as an autonomous mental function. Designed to help clarify the intentional process of consciousness, Sartre’s theory raises questions about oneiric states, repression, and preconscious and unconscious forces that undermine the spodictic certainty that is the aim of Husserl’s radical subjectivism. (2)

Even armed with a French dictionary, German dictionary, any number of texts on literary theory, and various other references, provided no salvation.

Not content with the already ambitious task of explicating six primary texts in connection with seven complex theorists, Rowe breathlessly introduces a total of thirty-two more critics and critical schools within the first chapter. A dense argument between Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida is accorded one line. Phenomenology and Russian Formalism rate a paragraph apiece. Rowe quotes Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, Walter Benjamin, Hayden White, Harold Bloom along with other comparably difficult theorists without providing adequate introduction or synthesis. Like Bartleby, Rowe diligently copies words from numerous sources, but prefers not to follow his ideas through to any destination.

He writes a great deal, for example, about modernity. He explains—badly—Paul de Man’s theory of modernity, an impulse that is paradoxically “antiliterary” and might be likened to the action of a wave. A writer, wanting to accomplish something new, tries to break out from the ocean of literature. The resulting wave derives nonetheless from the ocean of literature itself and, at the same time the wave breaks upward, its curving crest forecasts its reinscription into literary tradition. Rowe connects de Man’s notion of modernity—the generative force of literature itself—with Harold Bloom’s idea of the “anxiety of influence.” While continually alluding to Bloom and the “anxiety of influence,” Rowe never explains the concept. And it isn’t a difficult concept to explain. Quite simply, Bloom feels that poetry—the text—is produced by a misreading and re-creation of the poet’s literary predecessors.

Rowe trots in several more notions of modernity before launching his final project. What Rowe proposes is a veritable hierarchy of anxiety. American literature is produced out of our desire to break away from Europe. The American writers Rowe has selected write—anxiously, of course—to deconstruct Emerson. Further, these writers, anxious about the influence of their own more major works, nervously produce marginal texts fortuitously fraught with contradictions and anomalies for Rowe to deconstruct.

But Rowe never delivers what he promises. In speaking of Thoreau, for example, he explains less what anxiety caused Thoreau to write A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers than why Walden is such a major minor work. Rowe’s tactic, a strategy he repeats in subsequent chapters, is to devalue the major work or works in order to elevate the minor work. Rowe gives a lot of articulate reasons to explain the technical failures of the major texts, but his argument boils down to demonstrating the major texts’ simplicity in contrast to the minor texts’ complexity.

Walden, for example is plagued by structural regularity, which Rowe refers to, disparagingly, as its “perfect form,” “mathematical precision,” or “architectonic order” and by the fact that it is awfully easy to understand since “Every schoolchild knows that Walden is about innocence, the auroral Adam in the primal light of nature” (35). Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables pale before the less simplified model of the imagination provided by The Blithedale Romance. Ishmael’s too easy to identify with and Huckleberry Finn is a cop out. What does subverting the value of the major texts have to do with Rowe’s stated aims? Apparently experiencing some anxiety himself, Rowe feels his work will be more major if he can make the discussed texts less minor.

Not surprisingly, even the discussions of the six texts do not follow Rowe’s original intentions. Thoreau’s A Week largely succeeds because of its “de-centeredness,” The Blithedale Romance because it demonstrates how imaginative consciousness is based on absence, A Narrative of A. Gordon Pym by enacting “the deconstruction of representation as the illusion of truth,” “Bartleby the Scrivener” by subverting both representation and logos, Pudd’nhead Wilson by its indeterminacy—the “refusal to resolves its issues” (167), and The Sacred Fount by de-hierarchizing the subject and its construction of self. If these critiques begin to sound the same it is because of the care with which Rowe has constructed his argument. Neither Rowe’s selection of theorists—Freud, Sartre, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Saussure, Husserl, etc., nor his thinly focused selection of their works, e.g., Heidegger’s “later” essays, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, or Freud’s “Note Upon a Mystic Writing-Pad” are a matter of quiddity. Rowe’s theorists—like his readings of the six minor texts—all look like they came out of the same cookie-cutter because Rowe has consciously selected the acknowledged precursors of Jacques Derrida.

I have no problem with what finally evolves into six Derridean readings, but I do question why Rowe devises such an intricate plan to cloak his actions. Perhaps, in another clutch of anxiety, he felt that in a book where the main thrust was on “intertextuality,” the use of a dominant theorist, who would then function like the logocentric voice Rowe cautions against, would undermine his goals.

I don’t—finally—understand, amid his tangle of motives and intentions, what Rowe’s choice of texts and theorists is supposed to demonstrate. I don’t understand why Rowe continually fails to define his terms. His book hinges on the concept of modernism, and he refers to its “central problems,” its “traditional historical formulation,” its “concerns,” and its “basic poetic, linguistic, and critical values” (169) but never provides a specific description of just what he feels modernism is.

Through the Custom House remains a book both confused and confusing—echoing the words Rowe quotes from Melville’s Pierre: “The profounder emanations of the human mind” are always ruined towers that “never unravel their own intricacies, have no proper endings; but in imperfect, unanticipated, and disappointing sequels (as mutilated stumps), hurry to abrupt intermergings with the eternal tides of time and fate” (138).

Better Homes and Gardens New Baby Book: The Complete Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth and Baby Care

New Baby Book: The Complete Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care (Better Homes and Gardens) - Edwin Kiester Gack - did I never tire of these baby self-help books???

I Am a Housewife!

I Am a Housewife! - Jaquie Davison Yes, I suppose attacking this book is like shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself…

I ran across this horrific little gem when I was researching some other books. Though dated in its viewpoints, the beliefs Jaquie Davison depicts are still promoted by some women and men and religious denominations.

This is the "baby doll" nightwear Davison suggests to please yo’ man:


In Davison’s mind, the culturally correct housewife acts less like a mother than a (father’s) daughter. Davison explains the notion of an acquiescent, dependent wife and mother in I Am a Housewife! (1972)—a book that is a unique blend of autobiography and self-help guide. The ideal housewife, Davison tells us, acts like her daughter:
Take a tip from your little daughter. Watch her uninhibited technique as she handles the man in her life, her father, your husband . . . . She obeys him without question: she gives him unstinted devotion. When he arrives home she runs, screaming with pleasure to throw her arms around him, to hug and kiss him. When he tells her stories, no matter how tall they are, she listens with wide-eyed interest and innocence. She asks questions constantly so he can show off his intelligence . . . (32)

Though Davison—depressingly—writes in complete earnest, her advice echoes Virginia Woolf’s highly ironic description of a woman’s function: “Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size” (35). Implicit, then, in Davison’s description of a successful housewife is the necessity for a woman to act like an infant and thus magnify the importance of her husband (and children). It is a schizoid performance, however, since on one level a woman should behave like her daughter and shower her husband with devotion while on another she is highly conscious of using manipulation and “technique.”

In another passage, Davison again explains the merits of a housewife’s demotion to infant status. Further, although Davison is apparently aware that housewives are being commodified by our culture, she lauds the wisdom of the advertising industry nevertheless:
I was walking through a department store and I saw some female sleeping apparel, and it was called a “baby doll.” In other words, here are grown women, when the weather’s warm, sleeping in something called “baby dolls.” What’s more, the manufacturers are smart enough to give them names like that, knowing they won’t be shunned. What does this mean? It means that women really like to be feminine and like to be baby dolls, protected, cared for, pampered. They want someone to take care of them. They don’t want to be in charge. (emphasis added, 33)

Or, perhaps what Davison is really identifying are the needs of our society rather than the needs of a housewife. If, by Davison’s own admission, a woman acting like a baby is a performance, her book may tell us more about the desires of a culture than those of a housewife. Though Davison paints an extreme picture of a submissive housewife, she accurately reflects a culture that often tends to subdue and infantilize motherhood. A woman following Davison’s advice learns to bow to the desires of a dominant culture, since her own desires must be effaced and controlled to please her “man” and her children.

However, like so many critiques of wives and mothers, Davison’s commentary lacks a socioeconomic base. Her exhortation for women to stay at home where they belong presumes a husband able to [amply!:] support a family and does not take into account the needs of divorced mothers, mother without partners, mothers with unemployed husbands, widowed mothers, mothers on welfare, etc.

In America, Davison blithely argues, women are lucky because we have inherited the traditions of the “Age of Chivalry’: “In America, a man’s first significant purchase is a diamond for his bride, and the largest financial investment of his life is a home for her to live in. American husbands work hours of overtime to buy a fur piece or other finery to keep their wives in fashion . . . .” (77).

Davison’s description of the great good fortune of American women really applies to very few women, and it’s my hope that very few women aspire to being the decorative doormat Davison advocates.

p.s. Found this while hunting (unsuccessfully) for the book cover: In the early 1970s, Jaquie Davison organized HOW (Happiness of Womenhood) to combat the evils of NOW.

partly from a prior publication

Williams Obstetrics 17th Edtn.

Williams Obstetrics 17th Edtn. - Jack Pritchard

Intrigue! Obstetrics? Gynecology?


An anecdote first: The male doctors who authored a couple of the editions of Williams Obstetrics had their wives complete the index. In the 16th and 17th edition the women added subversively, "Chauvinism, male, voluminous amounts, 1-1102," which is the entire book, excluding the index. I love it.

Two papers presented at a Modern Language Association conference some years ago help to situate the rhetoric dominant in Williams Obstetrics, a primary obstetrical text. The two papers, presented back to back in a session entitled “Women and Science,” formed an interesting juxtaposition. Both papers centered on the scientific gaze, the gaze Michel Foucault articulates in The Birth of the Clinic as the “gaze that burns things to their furthest truth” (120). The first paper, “Marie Curie: Radium in Hollywood” by T. Hugh Crawford, discussed Hollywood’s interpretation of Madame Curie. Crawford argued that although Hollywood’s Curie, played by Greer Garson, appeared to successfully invade the male world of technology and access science’s empirical gaze, her privilege was undercut by the audience’s invitation to gaze at her. Greer, whose portrayal of Curie was as luminous as the radium ultimately uncovered, was as much an object of observation as she was the subject of observation.

The next paper, “The Body that Bears the Fruit: The Representation of Pregnancy in Seventeenth-Century England,” by Eve Keller gave a historical overview of medicine’s role in obstetrics. Keller explained how pregnancy, the cessation of the menses, was commonly thought of as troublesome since the womb—being hidden—could be breeding either life or a disease. Keller noted that the more a woman became subject to the medical gaze—a gaze that became increasingly penetrating with later technologies such as ultrasounds and other monitoring devices—the less the woman figured as the subject/participant of her own pregnancy. According to Keller it was precisely the unknowable and uncontrollable aspects of the woman’s pregnant body that triggered increased reproductive technology.

As I thought about the two papers, I found myself wanting to conflate the ideas. Crawford, although he touched on the idea of giving birth, did not really develop the Madonna-like portrayal of Curie that Greer depicted. In fact, Curie via Greer Garson might epitomize the perfect mother. If, as Keller argued, ideally medicine desires to completely “unveil” the womb and thus be in complete control, Curie’s pitchblende functioned like an exterior womb. As Curie slowly uncovered the radium, we were able to share her gaze. Unlike hidden and unknowable wombs, Curie’s scientific womb was completely visible. Further, an exterior womb would be distinct, separate from the body, echoing the sentiment of Andreas Huyssen, who postulates that “the ultimate technological fantasy is creation without the mother.”

Certainly, in the various editions of Williams Obstetrics, there is the sense that physicians are at war with the female body and in their desire to control fetal outcome work to make the maternal body as docile as possible. As Foucault explains, “A body is docile that may be subjected, used, transformed and improved.” Although Williams Obstetrics defines its study as being concerned with “the physiological, pathological, psychological, and social factors” (19th, 1) that affect pregnancy, the twenty editions published during the twentieth-century focus more on the woman’s body and how it best may be controlled.

With the rapid increase of women physicians in the past few decades, it would be reasonable to anticipate that their entrance into a formerly male-dominated field would have an impact on medical discourse and treatment. In particular, women have “invaded” the area of obstetrics and gynecology—an area that might be considered the “women’s studies” of medicine. Since a woman’s perspective in a field centering on women’s health and reproduction is especially germane, one would expect academic texts in gynecology and obstetrics to reflect a dramatic shift in focus.

In fact, the large number of women practicing gynecology and obstetrics has not affected the rhetoric of major academic texts in the area as much as one would predict. Williams Obstetrics, arguably the “bible” of obstetrics, published five increasingly longer editions from 1980 - 2000. Despite the fact that these editions were produced at the same time large numbers of women were entering the obstetrics’ field, the many contributing authors of the various editions are exclusively male, and there is little evidence of any increased awareness of women’s needs or perspectives in the texts’ rhetoric.

Rather than adopting a more feminist stance—a stance particularly appropriate given the topic—the texts persist in discussing the pregnant woman only in terms of her body parts and physiological functions. Further, the changes evident in the last five editions reflect an increasingly defensive mode of rhetoric (in response the rising number of malpractice suits in obstetrics) and an emphasis on the advances made in reproductive technology.

In contrast, the clinical practice of obstetrics has changed a great deal. Most women now play an active role in their reproductive care and are encouraged to become educated in each facet of their pregnancy and delivery. As if oblivious to the marked changes in clinical practice, these editions of Williams Obstetrics continue to discuss the pregnant woman as a passive subject. Not surprisingly, the exclusion of a woman’s perspective in a text dealing with perhaps the most profound aspect of womanhood is also reflected in the proportion of women obstetricians in academic medicine. In contrast to the number of women practicing clinical obstetrics, only a small proportion of women comprise the faculties of academic institutions.

Of particular interest in these editions is the opening chapter, giving a broad perspective of obstetrics, and a second chapter, entitled “Human Pregnancy: Overview, Organization and Diagnosis," which appears only in the 18th, 19th and 20th editions. The other chapter discussed, “Mechanism of Normal Labor and Delivery,” appears in all five editions.

Interestingly, the word normal is used throughout Williams Obstetrics and could, quite accurately, be replaced by the word ideal since it is the normal or ideal delivery, unhindered by complications and pain, that the authors use as the model of reproduction. In contrast to the word normal, the word natural takes on unfavorable connotations. Birthing Centers and home deliveries both represent attempts at a more natural childbirth setting. While not directly disparaging birthing centers, Williams cites statistics to demonstrate their dangers and then states that “such centers should be located in hospitals” (19th 5), a move that would, of course, undo the intended effect. Home deliveries are dismissed more abruptly. Williams refers to the proponents of home birthing as a “small but quite vocal group of dissidents” whose needs should be met without “sacrificing the safety that hospitalization for delivery can provide the mother and especially the fetus-infant” (7).

Accordingly, in the ideal or normal model of reproduction, the doctors function as knowing overseers, while the woman’s body—since there’s no sense of the woman herself in this discourse—functions with complete docility. I first noted the emphasis on “docility” when I read the 16th edition of Williams Obstetrics.

My initial reactions to the text were rather divided. The text emphasizes the inherent dangers of pregnancy, an emphasis Dr. Perri Klass similarly noted during her obstetrical training at Harvard Medical School. Klass, a medical resident who studied obstetrics at the same time she herself was pregnant, began to feel that pregnancy was anything but normal: “most of us, including me, came away from the course with a sense that in fact pregnancy is a deeply dangerous medical condition, that one walks a fine line, avoiding one serious problem after another, to reach the statistically unlikely outcome of a healthy baby and a healthy mother” (49). Klass also commented on how little her training focused on anything other than the physical aspects of pregnancy: “We learned nothing about the emotional aspects of pregnancy, nothing about helping women prepare for labor and delivery” (48).

Williams Obstetrics concentrates instead on the dangers of pregnancy and thus the need for continual monitoring. The text also suggests that the ideal patient, i.e., one who trusts her doctor completely, will deliver her baby painlessly and easily. Accordingly, all five editions begin their discussion on pain with this question: “Is labor easy because a woman is calm, or is she calm because her labor is easy?” (19th ed. 371). The question itself raises a couple of implications: that easy labors are somewhat common and that labor pain is dependent on the woman’s emotional status. Since most women do experience pain in childbirth and the reasons why labor is painful seem obvious, the implication that the pain might psychogenic is startling. Oddly, editions before 1950 did not debate the reality of labor pain. The fifth edition of Williams Obstetrics—published in 1923—clearly outlined the physical cause for pain in labor and refers to the pain as “very severe” or even “almost insupportable” (254). Further, the fifth edition contradicts the suggestion that easy labors are common and states, in fact, that only in rare instances will labor will “entirely painless” (254). While the standpoint on pain in the later versus the earlier editions of Williams may seem insignificant, the shift in ideology serves to make women feel that labor pain is abnormal.

Rather than interviewing women who have experienced or were experiencing labor, the authors relied on the findings of the British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read. Although Williams Obstetrics has faithfully been citing Read’s study since 1950, they actually use his study out of context. Read’s aim, as he explains in his book Childbirth Without Pain, was to encourage a “natural childbirth . . . a childbirth in which no physical, chemical, or psychological condition is likely to disturb the normal sequence of events or disrupt the natural phenomena of parturition” (Arms qting Read 138).

Ironically, Williams Obstetrics uses Read’s study to reinforce their contention that an ideal patient docilely trusts her doctor and any mode of technological intervention he/she might advise. Williams quotes the portion of Read’s study where “after scrutinizing many cases” in 1944, he concluded that “Fear is in some way the chief pain-producing agent in otherwise normal labor” (17th edition, 405). The entire section on pain carries a number of implications. It is evident, first of all that the authors felt the second-hand observations of a male physician were more reliable than what they could learn from women themselves. Apparently, women could not objectively assess their pain or their emotional state.

Further, though it is obviously not clear how pain and fear precisely connect since Read commented that fear “in some way” causes pain, he nevertheless cited fear as the “chief pain-producing agent.” While other physiologic events—such as torsion testicle—will cause pain whether or not the person experiences fear, the pain a woman experiences in labor must be psychological. Read then stated that this fear (which causes the pain) may occur during an “otherwise normal labor.” If the labor was normal “otherwise” a reader can only conclude that pain and fear must be abnormal responses. Indeed, in every edition but the last two, the authors also add that fear (and thus pain) “may exert a deleterious effect on the quality of uterine contractions and on cervical dilatation” (405).

The domino effect of this argument may now be observed. The nervous woman—a woman not responding appropriately to her doctor’s calming presence—will experience fear. The fear will cause pain and the pain “may” inhibit normal uterine contractions and cervical dilatation. In short, this argument suggests that a woman is responsible for both her painful labor and the resultant complications her inappropriate response may incur.

The suggestion that a woman in labor controls or causes her own pain and complications serves both to encourage a woman’s docility and dependence on technology and, at the same time, to anticipate obstetrical malpractice suits. Malpractice suits are first mentioned briefly (a reference that is less than one line) in the 16th edition’s first chapter “Obstetrics in Broad Perspective.” By the 20th edition, the first chapter’s commentary on health reform and malpractice suits covers four pages. In Williams' last three editions a new chapter has been inserted the introduction. The reorganization of the last three editions demonstrates a dual purpose. When I first noticed the insertion of a new chapter in the last three editions entitled “Human Pregnancy: Overview, Organization, and Diagnosis,” I tried to determine its function. Ostensibly, the chapter provides a historical overview of menstruation and ovulation.

In this new chapter, the authors argue that, in earlier or more nomadic cultures, women had few, if any, menstrual cycles since they alternated between pregnancy and a sustained lactation during their child-bearing years. The rhetoric describing menstruation, as also noted by Emily Martin (The Woman in the Body), is one of failure, and, in fact, menstruation is specifically referred to as “fertility failure.” As the authors note, “women are physiologically ill-adapted” to be “non-pregnant” (16).

And, again, although the authors pay some homage to the intellectual/social problems modern women face, they stress that women now “experience 450 ovulatory cycles with massive progesterone secretion and withdrawal and attendant menstruation because they have chosen infertility” (emphasis added 13). In addition to causing numerous menstrual cycles, deferred pregnancy also exacerbates reproductive complications; older women are more likely to experience infertility and/or complications with labor and birth.

While the authors express sympathy for the modern woman’s plight, the rhetorical subtext is also apparent: women choose and control their own reproductive complications; doctors work to combat these technological challenges. This new chapter, then—strategically placed just after the first chapter outlining the increase in lawsuits—serves to provide historical reasons for women’s infertility and childbirth complications, a line of reasoning that is most assuredly a caveat to women as well as textual evidence in anticipation of obstetrical malpractice suits.

The changes that were observed in the these five editions of Williams Obstetrics, then, reflect advances in medical technology often justified, in part, to address the reproductive choices and attitudes of modern women and also to counter the massive increases in malpractice litigation initiated by “overzealous attorneys in search of huge settlements” (18th ed. 6). While the increase in malpractice suits is an unfortunate reality, the text’s target is more unfortunate. Increasingly, women are to blame. In all five editions, the authors argue that women cause their own pain and, in large measure, their pain causes less effective uterine contractions and dilatation. In the last three editions, the argument intensifies: by choosing deferred pregnancy and fewer children women wreak havoc on their reproductive systems: “Infertility can be chosen; but the physiological futility that results, and the endocrinopathy that may accrue in women from this choice, is appreciable” (16). While the authors go on to lament that they are not suggesting sustained pregnancy, the argument has been launched nonetheless. Women, and it is women alone who are targeted—no mention of participating husbands or partners is ever made—have created their own reproductive mess.

Consistently, Williams offers a mechanistic model of reproduction. In “A Case of Maternity: Paradigms of Women as Maternity Cases,” Ann Oakley similarly describes the medical view of women “not only as passive patients but, in a mechanistic ways, also as manipulable reproductive machines” (65). For example, Williams’ chapter entitled “Maternal Adaptation to Pregnancy” suggests a more holistic perspective but in reality discusses the woman only in terms of her body parts, i.e., the changes in her uterus, cervix, ovaries, etc. As a major academic text, the manner in which Williams Obstetrics presents women does matter. Often, women’s bodies are viewed as “battlefields.” In Williams Obstetrics, the modern woman—who might defer pregnancy, opt for alternative birthing methods or simply refuse to adopt a docile stance—is seen as jeopardizing fetal outcome. In the words of Dr. Peri Klass, “ all too often the patient comes to personify the disease, and somehow the patient becomes the enemy” (81).

Partially adapted from a prior publication

Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode

Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode - Angus Fletcher Who would think? Not a snappy title about what sounds like a pretty dull topic, yet this book, which I read back in the 1980s was a goldmine. Allegory is more than a literary device, but the way we perceive things, as Paul de Man argues, far more densely, in Blindness and Insight.

I remember this book as being exciting, which either means I'm a nerd, or it was one hell of a good book on theory.

The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage

The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage - Paul Elie Shows the intellectual convergence of thought of Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy as well as their raw humanity, warts and all. This book, more than any other, prompted my conversion to Catholicism, a choice I've not regretted.

The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior

The Perfect Puppy : How To Choose Your Dog By Its Behavior - Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart description

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Miniature Schnauzer...

Unless you're on the lookout for a dog possessing the perfect qualities to guard your SS headquarters, the Miniature Schnauzer does not fare well in the Harts' ranking system. In the The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog By Its Behavior, Benjamin and Lynette Hart assess 36 common dog breeds by using 13 parameters: excitability, general activity, snapping at children, excessive barking, playfulness, obedience training, watchdog barking, aggression toward other dogs, dominance over owner, territorial defense, demand for affection, destructiveness, ease of housebreaking.

On the opposite end of the scale is the bloodhound, who according to the chart, possesses almost no affect whatsoever. The authors recommended the breed for anyone wanting a decorative doormat.

I had a real need for this book. Our first dog, not one of the breeds discussed in this book, chomped its way through our possessions, including the interior of a new Toyota, and laughed at any attempts to restrain her. At one point, I went to a local hardware store, and had to go down into their lower level--the testosterone mothership--to get a large chain to hold our monster dog. The fellow who waited on me was amused. Finally, he chose a chain and said, condescendingly, "Here, little lady; I think this chain will be strong enough to hold 'Fido'." The next day, I rather enjoyed returning and telling the asshat clerk, "Whoops. Looks like Fido's going to need a bigger chain."

However, while our dog provided plenty of funny stories to tell our friends, living with this dog was not always pleasant. Before we we chose dog no. 2, I picked up this book. At that point we had four very young children, and we wanted a family dog.

According to the book, the dogs with the best profiles for families (easy to train, not territorial, affectionate, not a biter, etc.) were the Golden Retriever, Labrador, and Australian Shepherd. I'm not so sure about the Australian Shepherd, but our golden has been a winner. Of course, at about the same time, I also bought a book on dog training and got in touch with my alpha side, which apparently I have in abundance. According to my kids, I've turned our pets into tools, which, considering that we also have a cat, is quite an accomplishment.

The book is worthwhile if you're looking for a puppy, and I'd also recommend golden retrievers (which you can get from rescue agencies as well). They are loving dogs, who don't require the kind of Gestapo training that might have worked for our first dog.

Disclaimer: Pretty much any dog, with proper training, will be fine. However, as our experience with our first dog demonstrated, it helps to choose a dog that's not going to dominate you.

Mom's Life

Mom's Life - Kathryn Grody The “slice of life” or realistic autobiographies that have been emerging by mothers more recently are recognizable by more than their use of the word “fuck.”

Yet, this diction does serve to immediately alert the reader that this mother’s autobiography is not going to read like Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. Nevertheless, confusion may occur.

I first saw Kathryn Grody’s autobiography, A Mom’s Life, at Harry W. Schwartz Children’s Bookshop. Schwartz’s children’s store, which I had some time ago dubbed “Schwartz, Jr.,” was at that time located two doors down from the “adult” Schwartz bookstore in an affluent suburban mall. The children’s bookshop, now closed, was geared toward upwardly mobile parents with uniformly above-average children. The bookstore was antiseptically wholesome, with its juvenile books tastefully displayed and carefully screened.

Grody’s book was the focus of a Mother’s Day display. Surrounding Grody’s books were entry blanks for the children to write an essay describing why their mother was the best mother in the world. Grody’s book, apparently representative of motherhood, was described as providing “the unique joys of motherhood . . . funny and jolly . . . provocative . . . a delight.” The description on the book jacket depicted the book similarly: “It’s a three-ring circus of sticky fingers, flying food and creative clowning. It’s ketchup on tuna fish and the perfect recipe for soap bubbles.”

Kathryn Grody herself is pictured on the cover, holding toys and a kitchen appliance while sitting on a (sketched in) baby stroller. Grody’s expression is a mixture of exhaustion and sardonic good-humor When I bought the book, I expected a domestic autobiography in the style of Erma Bombeck.

By the time I reached the third page of Grody’s book, I was laughing. Grody, describing her growing frustration with her baby’s crying, writes:

please go to sleep, please go to sleep, please damn it, please go to sleep!” . . . . I would sit on the hallway floor outside his room, listening to these intense shrieks. Waaaaahhhhhhhhh! “Please God, let this stop.” Waaahhhhh! “Shit. Fuck. Why are five minutes taking forever?” (14,15)

. . . Clearly, no one at the children’s bookshop had previewed the book. Instead, literally judging the book by its cover, as I had also done, the book was selected because it looked harmless, just another funny mother story.

Although her writing is uneven, Grody is funny, but she makes no effort to hide or smooth over the real frustration a parent often experiences.

from a prior publication

An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets

An Essay On Shakespeare's Sonnets - Stephen  Booth
What makes Shakespeare's sonnets so good? Why does a sonnet such as the one below still resonate?

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Booth's book provides an answer. Booth chose a good title, as his book really is an essay, rather than a methodical study. Reading the sonnets, as Booth describes it, becomes a complex experience. One of the chief ways this experience remains essentially pleasurable rather than maddening, is by what Booth refers to as "the comfort of the couplet." In contrast to the teasing paradoxes encountered in the quatrains, the couplet "offers the reader a sound, simple reason why the poem was written and an over-simplified suggestion of what it was about." The reader, Booth explains, wants to be stimulated but not utterly baffled, so the couplet...

ties off one set of looose ends, brings the reader's mind back to conceiving of experience in a single system, and keeps him from worrying about or even bringing to consciousness the intellectual upheaval in which he has just participated.

Having described in the first half or so of the book--often in minute detail--the patterns of structure within Shakespeare's sonnets, Booth puts these critical tools to work. He devotes the rest of the book to analyzing four of the sonnets, line by line, and discussing the different patterns as the reader would encounter them. Freed from the dense description inherent in presenting his complex critical system, Booth's final essays are lucid and entertaining.

Other ideas are developed as well. The essay on sonnet 73 discusses the motif of time, the essay on sonnet 60 presents the function of the couplet, the essay on sonnet 94 develops (with examples from other critics) the reductive nature of paraphrase, and the essay on sonnet 15 discusses the sonnet tradition.

Booth's remarks on the sonnet tradition are particularly provocative. The sonnet, he explains in his essay on sonnet 15, relies on a discrepancy between what the poet says and what the reader expects. The sonnet convention (based on the conventions of courtly love) pivots on the idea of indecorum:

Its essential device is the use of the vocabulary appropriate to one kind of experience to talk about another. The writer taked about his lady and his relation to her as if she were a feudal lord and he a vassal, or as if she were the Virgin Mary and he a supplicant to her. A witty emphasis on the paradoxically simultaneous pertinence and impertinence of the writer's language and stance to his subject matter is of the essence of the convention...In all stages of its development, the courtly love tradition relies upon the reader's sense of the frame of reference in which the writer operates and the writer's apparent deviation in a rhetorical action that both fits and violates the expected pattern.

The patterns Booth finds in Shakespeare's sonnets are not unique; Sidney's contain these patterns as do Wyatt's or Spenser's or any number of poets. What is unique to Shakespeare is the amount of patterning he uses, making his sonnets seem "full to bursting not only with the quantity of different actions but with the energy generated from their conflict." These conflicts and tensions give the reader a feeling of freedom that mimics real experience within a form that is artificial, providing the comfort of order.

Booth's book is not designed as a handbook to the sonnets. You wouldn't go to his book to get a concise interpretation of sonnet 123 or to find out the historical background on sonnet 101. You will, however, get Booth's ideas on how a Shakespearean sonnet works and what happens to the reader as s/he explores its intricacies. My first impulse, when I finished the book, was to go back to the sonnets and re-read many of them, with the new perspectives Booth presented. I believe a work of criticism or theory that encourages you to return to the text and see it in a new way has accomplished its purpose.

A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway Though often containing gorgeous prose, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast has a clear agenda. The book treats Hemingway’s life in Paris from 1921 to 1926. Although the book clearly is autobiographical, in the Preface, Hemingway, after explaining that several items were left out of his memoir, then suggests, rather coyly, that “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction” and adds, “But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.” In essence, Hemingway wants it both ways: the book may be regarded as either fact or fiction. Although there is no reason for readers to read the work as fiction, Hemingway’s suggestion serves two ends. First, Hemingway introduces the idea that the book could be viewed as a novel, an idea that echoes the famous challenge he issued when he wrote The Green Hills of Africa where he ponders whether a work of nonfiction, if written truly enough, could compete with a work of the imagination. Aligning the work with fiction promotes its artistry; in addition, Hemingway’s Preface serves to justify his carefully reconstructed version of his early life.

However, Hemingway’s book does not seem like fiction because of what he leaves out, but rather for what he puts in. And, what Hemingway adds is gossip. Rather than the often vain, self-centered, and troubled person that Hemingway was, he presents a smoothed over, patient, loyal, and often loving version of himself. His first wife, Hadley, whom Hemingway unceremoniously dumped for Pauline Pfeiffer, is promoted to near sainthood. Ford Madox Ford is presented as hygienically challenged and a fool, Ezra Pound is a saint, and Ernest Walsh is a posturing liar. Yet, Hemingway presents his gossip artfully, even reluctantly. At one point, in reference to rumors about a writing award in which Ernest Walsh was involved, Hemingway disassociates himself from gossip and even attempts to admonish the reader: “If the news [about the writing award:] was passed around by gossip or rumor, or if it was a matter of personal confidence, cannot be said. Let us hope and believe always that it was completely honorable in every way” (125).

Despite Hemingway’s stated qualms about avoiding gossip and upholding honor, he shows no restraint in his portraits of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Stein is introduced early in the memoir, and then destroyed completely in a later chapter entitled, “A Strange Enough Ending.” Tellingly, Hemingway begins the chapter by observing, “There is not much future in men being friends with great women…and there is usually even less future with truly ambitious women writers” (117). Significantly, Hemingway diminishes Stein’s writing ability by relegating her to a general group of “ambitious women writers.” Hemingway recounts visiting Stein’s house; as he waits for her, he overhears an intimate conversation. Hemingway writes, “…I heard someone speaking to Miss Stein as I had never heard one person speak to another; never, anywhere, ever.

Then Miss Stein’s voice came pleading and begging, saying, “Don’t, pussy. Don’t. Don’t, please don’t. I’ll do anything, pussy, but please don’t do it. Please don’t. Please don’t, pussy” (118). Hemingway takes pains to describe how he quietly exits and asks the maidservant to say she had met him in the courtyard, and that he had never entered the house. Nevertheless, Hemingway’s willingness to write the incident and include a private conversation belies the gentlemanly behavior he tries to portray. The intimate conversation Hemingway provides—word-for-word—is designed to make Stein look foolish and weak. Hemingway uses gossip to assert his superiority.

Despite the many pages devoted to Gertrude Stein, Hemingway’s portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald serves as the book’s dramatic core. By the time Hemingway meets Fitzgerald, he has already published This Side of Paradise and had just completed The Great Gatsby. In contrast, Hemingway has not yet been able to write a novel and worries whether he can. When he reads The Great Gatsby, its genius stuns him. Hemingway’s artful vignette of Fitzgerald serves to cut him down to size. Throughout the book, Hemingway carefully constructs his writing persona and implies that the attributes he displays—discipline, diligence, and attention to craft—are the qualities of a true writer. In contrast, Hemingway introduces his portrait of Fitzgerald by implicitly comparing talent with craft.

Like Fitzgerald’s physique and character, which Hemingway dissects piece-by-piece, Fitzgerald’s writing ability is portrayed as weak and suspect. Fitzgerald, Hemingway implies, has not earned his ability to write; even worse, Fitzgerald only recognizes his talent after it is gone: “Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.” Hemingway implies that Fitzgerald’s writing was not an intellectual, crafted ability, but more a matter of luck. Fitzgerald was given a portion of talent, but he had not worked for it, and it contrasts with the sturdy and true writing that emerges from craft.

Not content with rendering Fitzgerald’s writing ability suspect, Hemingway continues to dissect Fitzgerald, taking direct aim at his manhood. Like a good gossip, Hemingway provides salacious details. However, Hemingway packages his gossip carefully. Hemingway writes, artfully: “Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have the mouth of a beauty…The mouth worried you until you knew him and then it worried you more.”

In the following chapter, “A Matter of Measurements,” Hemingway assuages the insecurity Fitzgerald feels because of a comment Zelda has made by taking Fitzgerald into the men’s room, inspecting him, and pronouncing the size of his penis normal. The content could hardly be more intimate and sensational. Hemingway performs verbal surgery throughout A Moveable Feast, and despite the book’s artistry, Hemingway spares almost no one his scathing memoir.

The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (Theory, Culture and Society Series)

The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (Theory, Culture and Society Series) - Professor John Urry In Michel Foucault’s sense of the word “gaze,” knowledge is paramount. The gazer—all-seeing, all-knowing—quickly penetrates depths and layers to perceive a subject’s essence. In the last paragraph of his book, John Urry referes to Foucault’s gaze and its relation to travel and tourism:

But what now is happening, as tourism develops into the largest industry worldwide … [is that:] almost all spaces, history and social activities can be materially and symbolically remade for the endlessly devouring gaze … To return to Foucault, contemporary societies are developing less on the basis of surveillance and the normalization of individuals, and more on the basis of the democratization of the tourist gaze and the spectacleisation of place. (156)

Although John Urry refers to Foucault briefly in both the beginning and ending of his book, The Tourist Gaze, Urry is not using the term gaze in precisely the same sense as Foucault. As Urry explains, the tourist’s gaze, though ostensibly quite different from the medical gaze Foucault describes, is just “as socially organized and systematised as is the gaze of the medic” (1). Nevertheless, a major difference exists between the knowledgeable, totalizing gaze of a physician Foucault describes and the variety of gazes a tourist deploys. In terms of reception, the physician’s gaze is respected; by implication the tourist’s gaze is that of an amateur.

In devoting an entire book to analyzing the tourist’s fairly shallow gaze, Urry creates an implicit dichotomy. If the tourist’s gaze is marked by superficiality, kitsch, and inauthenticity then surely there must exist “something else,” a gaze that would somehow be different from that of a tourist. Commonly, distinctions are drawn between a tourist (the gauche novice) and the traveler (the knowing connoisseur).

In many ways, the tourist is the modern-day version of Mary Louise Pratt’s colonialist travelers who presume to “acquire” the countries they visit via their “imperial eyes.” In one ironic passage Pratt explains the motivation of a particular set of imperialist travelers who epitomized condescending discourse: “No one was better at the monarch-of-all-I-survey scene than the string of British explorers who spent the 1860s looking for the source of the Nile … [these:] Victorians opted for a brand of verbal painting whose highest calling was to produce for the home audience the peak moments which geographical ‘discoveries’ were ‘won’ for England” (202). These Victorian travelers who wrote about exotic landscapes and adventures for the armchair travelers’ consumption, prefigure the “pilgrims” Mark Twain lampoons in Innocents Abroad, the “ugly American” that figured in the mid-twentieth century literature and film, and the weary tourists satirized such movies as If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.

Urry dates the advent of mass tourism to the beginning of the twentieth century when—for the first time—people other than just the upper classes of modern society were able to travel. Though Urry does comment, that with the breakdown of boundaries characteristic of postmodernism “people are much of the time ‘tourists’ whether they like it or not” (83) the distinction (and the stigma) nevertheless persists.

from a prior publication

Rhetoric and Human Consciousness: A History

Rhetoric and Human Consciousness: A History - Craig R. Smith Ta da! I'm not teaching this course any more, so I'll never have to use this crushingly boring text again. ...And it's not as though I didn't try to find something more interesting. However, texts that provide an overview of rhetorical theory are difficult to find. Here, what Smith accomplishes in breadth he undoes in depth. Too often, particularly with theorists who warrant more explanation, Smith's commentary is scant (two pages on Derrida, two or three pages on Foucault, perhaps one or two pages on Baudrillard, etc.) and he often drops in critical terms without providing any context or definition. I was honest. I told my students this was an unfortunate text, but the best - after looking at dozens - that I could find.

However, Smith's students fare worse. I saw his online syllabus, and the course must be hell on wheels. Every day featured quizzes, exercises, and other busy work. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. We use and are assaulted by rhetoric every day. There should be fascinating books on rhetorical theory. Where in the hell are they?

As a further insult, there was a new edition in 2009, and the old edition was unavailable. The only changes were the addition of a few contemporary names - Obama here, Palin there. Otherwise, it was the same dull text, squashed into an edition 60 pages shorter with a microscopic font.

The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction

The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction - Emily Martin Medical viewpoints and terminology may be used as an index to gauge the way society views a woman’s body. As various critics have noted, the language of women’s health care—particularly concerning reproduction and sexual practice—could be described as the “rhetoric of peril.” Ever since male physicians began to take charge of childbirth and women’s health care in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a woman has been seen as innately weak, a frail vessel whose well-being is closely tied to her hormones, ovaries, and womb.

Emily Martin, in her excellent study, The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction, explains that prior to the eighteenth century, men and women’s bodies were considered “structurally similar”; women’s genitals were simply inside the body, while men’s were outside (27). By the early eighteenth century, these views began to change. As Martin points out, the scientific “proof” that men and women were fundamentally and biologically different served to solidify and define their social roles because these differences “were grounded in nature, by virtue of the dictates of their bodies” (32).

The ideological shift in medical rhetoric becomes critically important as it served to keep women in their place; a woman who rejected being relegated to the domestic sphere not only waged a war against “Nature” itself, but also could be labeled unnatural (32). When men and women’s bodies were considered roughly analogous, a woman’s bodily functions were explained in relation to those of a man’s and thus were considered normal.

Once men and women were deemed fundamentally different, a woman’s bodily functions provoked more scrutiny. As Martin explains, menstruation, ovulation, menopause, and birth—formerly considered normal processes of a woman’s body—were now viewed as pathological states (32–67). Consequently, it was not only morally proper for a woman to stick to home and hearth but also a matter of safety: A woman’s inherently diseased body required the care of her husband and the constant surveillance of (male) physicians.

from an earlier publication