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Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications

Alyssa Arbuckle, Alison Hedley, Shaun Macpherson, Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, Daniel Powell, Jentery Sayers, Emily Smith, Michael Stevens, Authors
6. Proposal, page 1 of 4
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Mobilizing the Victorian Maternal Body: Introduction

I propose a digital map of the pregnant body's mobility in late Victorian London. The project, tentatively titled “Mobilizing the Maternal Body,” aims to express a kind of topography of pregnant life, demonstrating the material constraints that social codes and cultural forces impose on the maternal body in a particular cultural moment.

Using a historical map of 1890s London warped onto Google Earth, the user will be able to situate historical data about mobility as recorded in the diaries of a middle-class Victorian woman. Tracing the author's movement over the course of her pregnancy, the user can formulate a sense of how late Victorian culture may construct a geo-political maternal subject. This will serve as the initial layer of data, but the project will accommodate for collaborative expansion—additional layers of socio-historical, medical, political, and literary-cultural data that I and other contributors deem relevant to maternal mobility (for example, topographically salient references to pregnancy, mobility and conduct in Grant Allen's 1895 novel The Woman Who Did).

The map will supplement my forthcoming Master's essay, which interrogates representations of childbearing and the pregnant body in late Victorian popular literature. At the end of the nineteenth century, childbearing becomes a crux of debates on feminism and social evolution. Popular literature like Cassell's Book of the Household (1889), Sarah Grand's The Heavenly Twins (1893), and The Woman Who Did implicate the pregnant body as a vehicle for population regulation. These texts demonstrate that various religious, medical and political forces seek to normalize maternity and therefore control the British nation.

Author: Alison Hedley
Word Count: 255
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Discussion of "Mobilizing the Victorian Maternal Body: Introduction"

Thoughts on "Mobilizing the Victorian Maternal Body"

I had several false starts as I brainstormed for my final project; by the time I had produced a proposal, I still had not satisfactorily raised the project off the ground. I wanted to map the mobility of pregnant women in late Victorian England, but I struggled to piece together a feasible methodology that would allow me to build a theoretically sound argument. After I submitted the proposal, I learned that I would not be able to access the resources (archived women's diaries) I hoped to use as raw data. However, I also realized that even if I were to map such data, it would not produce much of an argument, no matter which of the visualization tools I chose from my limited repertoire. I started to think about the issues inherent to visualizing subjective data in digital literary studies. The proposal exercise was an important step in the process, although my final project took the research in a very different direction. The proposal compelled me to articulate my quandary and share it with my peers and Dr. Sayers; their feedback was invaluable. For the final project, I did incorporate data from my proposal, but as a failed model from which I launched into a productive study of subjective data visualization in the digital humanities.

Author: Alison Hedley
Word Count: 215

Posted on 30 August 2012, 8:45 am by Alison Hedley  |  Permalink

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