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EP 101: Conceiving Histories

EP 101: Conceiving Histories

Conceiving Histories gives you a fascinating insight into ‘unpregnancy’

Isabel Davies, Senior lecturer in Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Birkbeck, University of London.

This is a fascinating episode where we look at the history of conception with my guest Isabel Davies.

Isabel, is a medieval reader and has been studying  pregnancy diagnosis today and in the past.

How did people in the past imagine and anticipate the future of pregnancy diagnosis?

For all our technological advancement, in what ways does our experience of trying to diagnose early pregnancy resemble that of people in the past?

Conceiving Histories looks into the archives to find a history of pre-pregnancy: that is, the diagnostic ambiguity of early pregnancy, the experience of trying to conceive and the politics of childlessness in the past.

This is a study of fantasies about the body, about objective and scientific knowledge, and of parenthood. 

Conceiving Histories investigates the very ordinary experience of not being pregnant for month on month; the difficulties for medical professionals in diagnosing pregnancy; and men’s anxieties about their own reproductive fortunes.

It looks at fakes and fashions, dreams and denials, trying and testing. Isabel talks about the famous example of Mary Tudor and her ‘Phantom Belly‘ .

Also how Queen Victoria has a lady in waiting  ‘ Lady Flora Hastings’ who caused a pregnancy scandal after it was assumed she was pregnant out of wedlock, when in fact it was a tumour who killed her.

Anna Burel is an artist based at the Bow Arts Trust in London. She works in a range of different media – photography, drawing, costume and performance art – to think about the body, and particularly the female body, under medical scrutiny.

Her work mediates on the properties of skin and viscera, anatomy, surgical examination and pharmacopoeia. Here’s Anna’s work around the bizarre frog pregnancy test which sure thousands of frogs imported from South America, to then be injected with the urine sample from a supposedly pregnant woman. If it was a positive sample, the frog produced eggs. When this testing stopped, there were thousands of frogs needing to be ‘rehomed’. 

frog pregnancy test


The exhibition is running from 8th November – 13th December 2017 at 43 Gordon Sqaure at The Peltz Gallery in London , just South of Euston.

If you’d like to contact Isabel her email is

 Incase you wondered, I’d put out my special for International Podcast Day so this is bumper part of 101 – really it’s Ep 102 but I’d already recorded it, so apologies for any confusion xx

The post EP 101: Conceiving Histories appeared first on The Fertility Podcast.

Source: The Fertility Podcast

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