Jovial Pregnancies: Couvade and Culture from Shakespeare to Milton

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/193577
Title:
Jovial Pregnancies: Couvade and Culture from Shakespeare to Milton
Author:
Johnson, Nicholas Shane
Issue Date:
2009
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
This study analyzes figurations of masculine pregnancy in early modern texts. Because no systematic methodology for conducting such an analysis yet exists, I have synthesized scholarship from anthropology, medicine, and psychoanalysis to construct an appropriate paradigm. Specifically, I bring together the anthropologist's "couvade," the physician's "couvade syndrome," and the psychoanalyst's gender-inflected model of the unconscious. Informed by this interdisciplinary scholarship, I offer a composite theory of couvade desire. I then apply that theoretical model to early modern figurations of masculine pregnancy. I find that the pervasive use of such figurations during the period results from ahistorical bodily disparities and historically-specific epistemological circumstances. The so-called "literary couvade" thus modulates: it directly challenges essentialist claims on the one hand, while simultaneously acknowledging the inexorable link between masculinity and a bodily incapability to give birth. Masculinity, in this model, appears disabled.Mitigating the disability, however, is a cultural imaginary unfettered by modern anatomical knowledge. Key aspects of human reproduction were still seductively obscure in the early modern period. Women birthed babies, that much was plain; but, perhaps men had a compensatory system of reproduction. Perhaps, some speculated, that system was superior to the messy, merely material capability exclusive to women. Masculinity could, in this regard, rival maternity for social significance without disclosing any act of appropriation from maternity. Such a dynamic resembles closely Rene Girard's paradigm of "mimetic desire." Crucial to mimetic desire is an indifference to the ostensible object on the part of both rival subjects. Relating this to the early modern "literary couvade," I conclude that figurations of masculine pregnancy emerge from a compensatory desire: the desire to mollify an apparent lack with the reduction in significance of the rival's manifest capability.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
Couvade; Early Modern Culture; Masculinity and Literature; Milton; John; Pregnancy and Authorship; Shakespeare; William
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
English; Graduate College
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Committee Chair:
Brown, Meg Lota

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoENen_US
dc.titleJovial Pregnancies: Couvade and Culture from Shakespeare to Miltonen_US
dc.creatorJohnson, Nicholas Shaneen_US
dc.contributor.authorJohnson, Nicholas Shaneen_US
dc.date.issued2009en_US
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis study analyzes figurations of masculine pregnancy in early modern texts. Because no systematic methodology for conducting such an analysis yet exists, I have synthesized scholarship from anthropology, medicine, and psychoanalysis to construct an appropriate paradigm. Specifically, I bring together the anthropologist's "couvade," the physician's "couvade syndrome," and the psychoanalyst's gender-inflected model of the unconscious. Informed by this interdisciplinary scholarship, I offer a composite theory of couvade desire. I then apply that theoretical model to early modern figurations of masculine pregnancy. I find that the pervasive use of such figurations during the period results from ahistorical bodily disparities and historically-specific epistemological circumstances. The so-called "literary couvade" thus modulates: it directly challenges essentialist claims on the one hand, while simultaneously acknowledging the inexorable link between masculinity and a bodily incapability to give birth. Masculinity, in this model, appears disabled.Mitigating the disability, however, is a cultural imaginary unfettered by modern anatomical knowledge. Key aspects of human reproduction were still seductively obscure in the early modern period. Women birthed babies, that much was plain; but, perhaps men had a compensatory system of reproduction. Perhaps, some speculated, that system was superior to the messy, merely material capability exclusive to women. Masculinity could, in this regard, rival maternity for social significance without disclosing any act of appropriation from maternity. Such a dynamic resembles closely Rene Girard's paradigm of "mimetic desire." Crucial to mimetic desire is an indifference to the ostensible object on the part of both rival subjects. Relating this to the early modern "literary couvade," I conclude that figurations of masculine pregnancy emerge from a compensatory desire: the desire to mollify an apparent lack with the reduction in significance of the rival's manifest capability.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectCouvadeen_US
dc.subjectEarly Modern Cultureen_US
dc.subjectMasculinity and Literatureen_US
dc.subjectMiltonen_US
dc.subjectJohnen_US
dc.subjectPregnancy and Authorshipen_US
dc.subjectShakespeareen_US
dc.subjectWilliamen_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineEnglishen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.chairBrown, Meg Lotaen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberKiefer, Fredericken_US
dc.contributor.committeememberUlreich, John C.en_US
dc.identifier.proquest10259en_US
dc.identifier.oclc659750864en_US
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