Common bodies : women, touch and power in seventeenth-century England /
Laura Gowing.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2003.
viii, 260 p. : ill.
0300100965 (alk. paper)
More Details
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2003.
0300100965 (alk. paper)
contents note
Uncertain knowledge -- The politics of touch -- Consent and desire -- 'The child in me': perceiving pregnancy -- Childbed conflicts -- Precarious parenthood.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-06-01:
This innovative and far-reaching study emphasizes the lack of, rather than opportunities for, women's autonomy in the gender and sexual codes of early modern England. Using court records and cheap prints, Gowing (King's College London) reconstructs the ideological and physical experience of women from lower orders of society and explores ways in which women were not just complicit but active in enforcing the gender order, even in its assertion of control over women's bodies. After introductory chapters discussing 16th-century conceptions of human anatomy and the meanings of touch in this period, the book analyzes moments in the construction and experience of the female body, including rape, pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. Gowing challenges in particular the notion of childbirth as an occasion for female solidarity and agency; she instead highlights tensions surrounding the issue of paternity and recasts female sociability in labor and delivery as potentially overbearing rather than supportive. While this attention to coercion and vulnerability may in part be a product of her reliance on legal evidence, Gowing's imaginative and sophisticated portrait is especially valuable in its rare and productive attention to the physical and the popular--the concrete historical context of the ordinary woman in this era. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. A. Kugler John Carroll University
This item was reviewed in:
Guardian UK, October 2003
Choice, June 2004
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Bowker Data Service Summary
This title explores how women in 17th century England understood and experienced their bodies. Using letters, popular literature, and detailed legal records from courts that were obsessively concerned with regulating morals, it recaptures 17th century popular understandings of sex and reproduction.
Unpaid Annotation
This pioneering book explores for the first time how ordinary women of the early modern period in England understood and experienced their bodies. Using letters, popular literature, and detailed legal records from courts that were obsessively concerned with regulating morals, the book recaptures seventeenth-century popular understandings of sex and reproduction. This history of the female body is at once intimate and wide-ranging, with sometimes startling insights about the extent to which early modern women maintained, or forfeited, control over their own bodies. Laura Gowing explores the ways social and economic pressures of daily life shaped the lived experiences of bodies: the cost of having a child, the vulnerability of being a servant, the difficulty of prosecuting rape, the social ambiguities of widowhood. She explains how the female body was governed most of all by other women--wives and midwives. Gowing casts new light on beliefs and practices of the time concerning women's bodies and provides an original perspective on the history of women and gender.
Table of Contents
List of figures
List of abbreviations
Introductionp. 1
Uncertain knowledgep. 17
The politics of touchp. 52
Consent and desirep. 82
'The child in me': perceiving pregnancyp. 111
Childbed conflictsp. 149
Precarious parenthoodp. 177
Conclusionp. 204
Notesp. 210
Select bibliographyp. 238
Indexp. 249
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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