Closer to Home: The Domestic in the Discourses of Upper-Middle-Class Pregnancy

  • Helena Michie
  • Naomi R. Cahn


A few years ago, in my seventh month of pregnancy and halfway through my semester-long course on Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte—these serve as my calendars and my aids to memory—I found myself teaching a Foucauldian reading of Austens Northanger Abbey, trying and failing to explain the literary critic Paul Morrisons concept of the “domestic carceral” to my students.1 The class, largely made up of women deeply invested in the euphoric marriage plot and a sense of the ever-expanding domestic spaces it created for women’s sexual and social triumph, resisted for the full ninety minutes Morrison’s interrogation of the politics of home.2


Methodist Hospital Domestic Space Advice Book Horne Function Expectant Father 
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  1. 1.
    For a discussion and historical identification of the “carceral,” see Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1977), 293–308.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 137.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Sandra A. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Sheila Kitzinger, Your Baby, Your Way: Making Pregnancy Decisions and Birth Plans (New York: Pantheon, 1987), 165.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    See Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, For Their Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women (New York: Anchor, 1979);Google Scholar
  6. Ann Dally, Women under the Knife: A History of Surgery (London: Hutchinson Radius, 1991);Google Scholar
  7. Karen Michaelson, ed., Childbirth in America: An Anthropological Perspective (South Hadley, MA: Bergin, 1988).Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Birth (New York: Dutton, 1992).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Nancy Wainer Cohen and Lois J. Estner, Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (New York: Bergin, 1983), xv–xx.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    See Michaelson, Childbirth in America, 28; Barbara Katz Rothman, “Awake and Aware, or False Consciousness,” in Childbirth: Alternatives to Medical Control, ed. Shelly Romalis, 150–180 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Ann Oakley, The Captured Womb: A History of the Medical Care of Pregnant Women (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), 33.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhaus, eds., The Ideology of Conduct: Essays on Literature and the History of Sexuality (New York: Methuen, 1987).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sarah Hardy and Caroline Wiedmer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helena Michie
  • Naomi R. Cahn

There are no affiliations available

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