American Studies | U.S. Arts and Media / TOPIC: Pregnancy and Visual Culture: A History of Childbirth Practices and their Visual Representationsu108
A202 | 11538 | Shira Segal


(3 cr. hrs.) A & H

M/Tu/Wed/Th/Fr 1:10 - 2:25 p.m.

How is pregnancy and childbirth visually grappled with in our
culture? What do representations of pregnancy and childbirth reveal
about cultural attitudes, social expectations and individual
experiences of reproduction? The aim of this course is to provide an
in-depth exploration of visual representations of pregnancy and
childbirth as they are informed by particular childbirth practices
in the United States. From pregnant and birthing images found in
photography and television to those in painting, sculpture and film,
this class will examine how these images reflect, reinforce or
revolutionize cultural anxieties surrounding the maternal body.
Situated in the context of medicalization and midwifery, childbirth
and it accompanying images will be explicated by contrasting themes:
birth in the hospital versus the home, medical knowledge versus
bodily knowledge, fetal imagining and fragmentation of the mother
versus mother-centered discourses, and technocratic versus natural
or holistic models of the body. Class material and discussions will
be driven by three basic questions: 1) How is pregnancy and
childbirth visually grappled with in our culture? 2) What aesthetic
choices, visual themes and theoretical problems arise from the
visual subject of childbirth? and 3) How might these image texts
reflect, reinforce or revolutionize cultural anxieties surrounding
the pregnant/birthing/maternal body? The goal of this class is to
offer insight into the social and medical discourses of the body
that shape the treatment of  women and their partners in the
hospital birth setting, and to offer an alternative.