Female Physicians in American Literature
Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture
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Female Physicians in American Literature traces the woman physician character throughout her varying depictions in 19th-century literature, from her appearance in sensational fiction as an evil abortionist to her more well-known idyllic, feminine presence in novels of realism and regionalism. "Murderess," "hag," "She-Devil," "the instrument of the very vilest crime known in the annals of hell"—these are just a few descriptions of women abortionists in popular 19th-century sensation fiction. In novels of regionalism, however, she is often depicted as moral, feminine, and self-sacrificing. This dichotomy, Jessee argues, reveals two opposing literary approaches to registering the national fears of all that both women and abortion evoke: the terrifying threats to white, masculine, Anglo-American male supremacy.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Woman Physician Character and Anglo-American Nationalism
Fearing the Woman Physician as Trope
Abortion and Nationalism
Chapter 1: An "Atrocious Foreign Woman": White Nationalism and the Abortionist
The Sensation of Madame Restell
Embodying the Abortionist
Chapter 2: The Corporeal Legacy of the Abortionist
Sensation as White Supremacy
Abortion and Melodrama
Chapter 3: "Truly Womanly Work": Sentiment and Reform Fiction
Radical Gender in the Social Problem Novel
The "Abominations" of the Woman Physician
Chapter 4: Absorbing the Terror: The Idealized Woman Physician
Curing White Male Nationality
The Woman Physician as Christ Figure
Conclusion: Curing the Sentimental Feminist with the "Doctress"
Genre and Gendered Medicine
Queering the Doctress
Margaret Jay Jessee, PhD (University of Arizona, 2012) is Associate Professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she is also the Director of the Undergraduate Program. She guest edited a special issue of Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Theory, and Culture on medical women in 19th-century American literature and her essay "’Cutting Up Dead Babies’: The Literary Legacy of the Woman Physician as Abortionist" appears in Women’s Studies: an Interdisciplinary Journal. Her other work has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, South Atlantic Review, and in various essay collections.