CFP: Histories of Magic and Sex (Notches)

How have perceptions of magic shaped sexuality, love, and reproduction in the past?

“Bewitched,” “enchanted,” “spellbound,” “possessed” — the language of seduction and love is replete with allusions to magic. In the early modern period, magic and sexuality were deeply intertwined and there was a widespread consensus that humans were vulnerable to mysterious powers, especially when it came to their sex lives. For instance, accusations of love magic appear regularly in the records of the Mexican, Spanish, and Roman Inquisitions. Additionally, Renaissance scholars argued that imagination affected unborn children, forming an infant according to what its mother looked upon at the moment of conception. Amid deadly witch-hunts, anxieties about magic’s effects on fertility emerged in courts and churches. Magic haunted sexuality in innumerable ways.

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Podcast of the evolution of understandings of pregnancy in Mexico

By the Sexualidad en tu propia voz explores the changes that happened within the Mexican context to concepts imported from Europe of motherhood, childbirth, and sex. Challenging how men have come to dominate knowledge on childbirth.

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Reproduction on Film

Reproduction on Film: Sex, Secrets and Lies

Sexual secrets are powerful social capital, long subject to suppression, cover up, rumour, manipulation, investigation and exposure. In all the films in this fifth series of ‘Reproduction on Film’, lies, deceptions and conspiracies are exposed with life-changing consequences for individuals, groups or whole societies. Put on by the Generation to Reproduction programme with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

3 February – 20 March 2016, at the Main Lecture Theatre, Old Divinity School, St Johns Street, Cambridge. All screenings at 7pm. All welcome. Admission free.

Series devised by Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (jo312@cam.ac.uk).

posterWednesday, 3 February: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)

Introduced and with discussion led by Isabelle McNeill (Trinity Hall, Cambridge)

Director: Jacques Demy. Starring: Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. France/West Germany 1964. 91 mins.

An astonishingly beautiful and unusually operatic product of the French New Wave, Jacques Demy’s sung-through musical romance made Catherine Deneuve a star. It tells a bittersweet story of lovers separated by war, illegitimate pregnancy, and the social and economic pressures to marry, though not necessarily the one you love.

Co-presented by Alliance Française Cambridge. Free admission.

Wednesday, 10 February: Secrets and Lies

Introduced and with discussion led by Anandi Ramamurthy (Sheffield Hallam University)

Director: Mike Leigh. Starring: Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. UK 1996. 142 mins.

 Leigh’s emotionally rich social observation documents the subtleties of the relationships in a dysfunctional family as its members’ secrets are revealed. After her adoptive parents die, an upwardly mobile, young black optometrist looks for her birth mother and discovers her to be working class and white.

 

Breast or Bottle? A Victorian Debate

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post is contributed by Jessica Cox and examines Victorian debates about breast feeding.

Breast or Bottle? A Victorian Debate

In twenty-first century Britain, women are more likely to breast feed if they are educated beyond the age of eighteen, work in professional occupations, and live in less deprived areas. This marks a distinct shift from the early to mid-nineteenth century, when women from higher socio-economic groups often eschewed the practice of nursing their own children – though the relatively common practice of employing wet nurses meant many of these children were still breastfed. Queen Victoria is a case in point: she refused to nurse her nine children herself, and was disgusted when her two eldest daughters elected to breastfeed. In a letter to her second daughter, Princess Alice, she wrote:

[A] child can never be as well nursed by a lady of rank and nervous and refined temperament – for the less feeling and more like an animal the wet nurse is, the better for the child

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The Phantoms of Pregnancy

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post is contributed by Owen Davies who writes on the associations between pregnancy and ghosts.

From the ancient world to the present, societies across the globe have been concerned that problems in childbirth were a potential source of malevolent ghosts. People who died prematurely or tragically were thought to leave restless spirits that could harass, torment or spread illnesses amongst the living. It is no surprise, then, that women who died during pregnancy or childbirth formed one such vengeful group. Known in ancient Mesopotamia as the lilitu, they preyed on pregnant women.[1] The cause of such childbirth complications was itself considered an act of divine supernatural vengeance. It was recorded of the hag-goddess Lamashtu that:

She touches the bellies of women in labour,

She yanks out the pregnant woman’s baby.[2]

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Non-Reproduction: Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics (2014)

Published 2014

Volume 6, issue 1 of the journal Studies in the Maternal is a special edition on ‘Non-Reproduction: Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics‘. It was co-edited by Perceptions of Pregnancy network member Fran Bigman, and includes an article by Lucy van de Wiel who also spoke at our conference. The contents range from a piece on Reproductive Ageing and Egg Freezing in Dutch and British News Media to one on Voluntary childlessness in Weimar and contemporary Germany.

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‘Such mental suffering and such misery’: Reproductive complications resulting from syphilis and gonorrhoea, 1880-1914

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post on reproductive complications arising from syphilis and gonorrhoea is contributed by medical historian Anne Hanley.

In 1895 the medical practitioner and eugenicist, Arabella Kenealy, wrote a letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal, recounting a house call made to a heavily pregnant and syphilitic woman. According to Kenealy, the diagnosis was ‘indubitable’. The patient, ‘a wreck of a young woman’, had suffered three miscarriages in rapid succession, followed by the birth of a child who demonstrated clear symptoms of congenital syphilis. She had since suffered another two miscarriages and was again pregnant but hemorrhaging.

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