Female Physicians in American Literature : Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture book cover
1st Edition

Female Physicians in American Literature
Abortion in 19th-Century Literature and Culture

ISBN 9780367228439
Published January 7, 2022 by Routledge
108 Pages

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Book Description

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 sensational 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

Abortion and Melodrama

Sensation as White Supremacy

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

Affective Metanarratives

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Margaret Jay Jessee, PhD (University of Arizona, 2012) is Associate Professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she is also 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.