Captive Bodies: American Women Writers Redefine Pregnancy and Childbirth


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 146

Publication Date: October 2008

ISBN: 978-1-55014-999-9

While classifying the pregnant condition as a state of captivity might elicit negative connotations, Marotte underscores how American women writers have envisioned the condition of captivity as one in which the pregnant woman can realize, perhaps even find power in, a challenging and disturbing loss of subjectivity. In Captive Bodies, Marotte explores the use of the term “captive,” locating in it a multivalent meaning. To be captive in pregnancy is to reach a kind of sublime, a rapturous experience that has both negative and positive effects on the experiencing subject. In working with both primary and theoretical texts, Marotte reveals a genre of “pregnancy literature” that will validate this subject as one worthy of continued intellectual study and critical attention.    

“Marotte’s book goes beyond simply arguing that literary depictions of pregnancy are worthy of our attention, instead arguing that the social critiques they offer are part of women’s ongoing attempts to wrest pregnancy and maternity out of the hands of those who would (and have for centuries) sugar-coated it, over-spiritualized it, devalued it, isolated it, and naturalized it.” -Jane Simonsen, History and Gender/Women’s Studies, Augustana College

Introduction: Captive Bodies: American Women Writers Redefine Pregnancy and Childbirth

Chapter 1:
The Historical Female Captivity Narrative as Precursor to the Twentieth-Century Pregnancy Narrative

Chapter 2:
Legitimizing Captivity: Pregnancy from Chopin to O’Connor

Chapter 3:
Working-Class Writers on Pregnancy: Freeing Socially and Economically Captive Bodies

Chapter 4:
Emerging From Captivity: How African American Women Writers Use Pregnancy and Childbirth to Confront the Past and Create the Future

Chapter 5:
Captivated By Captivity: How Memoirs Reinscribe Pregnancy for the Contemporary Reader


Mary Ruth Marotte, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English at The University of Central Arkansas, where she specializes in women’s studies and critical theory. She is the co-founder and co-director of UCA’s annual graduate literature conference and serves on the board of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theater. Her scholarly pursuits remain those that address the problems and possibilities of merging the worlds of mothering and academia. She lives in Conway, Arkansas with her husband and three young children.