Livia Arndal Woods, "Pregnancy in the Victorian Novel" (Ohio State UP, 2023)


In Pregnancy in the Victorian Novel (Ohio State University Press, 2023), Livia Arndal Woods traces the connections between literary treatments of pregnancy and the medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth occurring over the nineteenth century. In the first book-length study of the topic, Woods uses the problem of pregnancy in the Victorian novel (in which pregnancy is treated modestly as a rule and only rarely as an embodied experience) to advocate for "somatic reading," a practice attuned to impressions of the body on the page and in our own messy lived experiences.

Examining works by Emily Brontë, Charlotte Mary Yonge, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and others, Woods considers instances of pregnancy tied to representations of immodesty, poverty, and medical diagnosis. These representations, Woods argues, should be understood in the arc of Anglo-American modernity and its aftershocks, connecting back to early modern witch trials and forward to the criminalization of women for pregnancy outcomes in twenty-first-century America. Ultimately, she makes the case that by clearing space for the personal and anecdotal in scholarship, somatic reading helps us analyze with uncertainty rather than against it and allows for relevant textual interpretation.

Livia Arndal Woods earned her PhD in English Literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). As a scholar, she focuses on Victorian literature and culture, women and gender studies, and the medical humanities. Dr. Woods is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Latoya Johnson is an editor, writer, and bibliophile with a master's in Humanities. Her research and writing interests include books and reading in popular culture, the public history of women's fiction, and women in Greco-Roman mythology.

Your Host

Latoya Johnson

Latoya Johnson is an editor, writer, and bibliophile with a master's in Humanities. Her research and writing delve into various aspects of popular culture. She is particularly interested in exploring the public history of women's fiction and the portrayal of femme characters in Greco-Roman mythology.
View Profile