Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



English Language, Literature, and Creative Writing


Literature, English.


Matheson, Suzanne,




This thesis analyzes the works of three British, women Romantic writers in relation to the social and medical constructions of maternity. It is founded on the supposition that images of the maternal body are used to serve a variety of political and ideological goals. The introduction discusses the attempt to recover the lost texts and voices of past literary women, and then shows how maternity intersected with the rhetoric of sensibility prevalent within Romanticism and the ideology of separate spheres. In the second chapter, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus is placed within the context of the professional rivalry between medical men and midwives. It is asserted that Shelley's text critiques the male usurpation of female, reproductive power, while also revealing an autobiographical anxiety concerning motherhood. Chapter three discusses the works of Ann Yearsley, and how she used her maternal subject position to claim an authority to speak out against class tyranny, oppression and violence. Yearsley's works are put in the context of the French Revolution and the politics of breast-feeding that played out in both France and Britain. Chapter four discusses the poetry of Felicia Hemans. It is argued that the death of the maternal body found so frequently in her works was an artistic response to the increased deaths of women in childbed in the early nineteenth-century. In a less literal fashion, the destruction or absence of the maternal acts as a subversive critique of a society that does not value and fulfill women's lives.Dept. of English Language, Literature, and Creative Writing. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1999 .Z36. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 39-02, page: 0359. Adviser: Suzanne Matheson. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1999.