Not-So-Great Expectations: Pregnancy and Syphilis in Sarah Grand’s The Heavenly Twins

  • Livia Arndal Woods


Though nineteenth-century fiction is generally marked by somatic and sexual reticence that relegates conditions like pregnancy and syphilis to the realm of euphemism, fears about the power of “disordered” bodies to shape futurity rise to trouble literature of the fin-de-siècle explicitly. This chapter demonstrates that in Sarah Grand’s The Heavenly Twins (1893) pregnancy is the site at which disorders of the social body are expressed. Edith’s syphilitic pregnancy signals—as Evadne’s bouts of sexually frustrated hysteria and post-partum mania confirm—that social illness becomes legible on the reproductive bodies of women. I argue that maternal impression theories that emphasize the susceptibility of generational bodies offer useful frameworks for thinking through anxieties about threatening somatic agency in the fin-de-siècle and more broadly.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Livia Arndal Woods
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English Language and LiteratureUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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