Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-10-31
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
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In early modern English medicine, the balance of fluids in the body was seen as the key to health. Menstruation was widely believed to regulate the blood level in the female body and so was extensively discussed in medical texts. In this book, Sara Read examines all forms of literature, from plays and poems, to life-writing, and compares these texts with the medical theories.

Many of these literary representations show how early modern English women related to their bleeding bodies, both in their menstrual cycles and at other times of transition, from menarche to menopause. For example, how would a literate woman read about her body in the books which claimed to be guides for female health? How was menstruation presented to society in staged and printed works? As part of its attempt to recover the ways in which a woman in this era might have understood this aspect of her physiology, this book examines the key moments when menstruation and related changes were at the forefront of her experience of living in a female body.

Author Biography

Sara Read is Tutor and Society for Renaissance Studies Post-Doctoral Fellow in the department of English and Drama at Loughborough University, UK. Read has published a number of articles and with two departmental colleagues, has edited a collection of seventeenth-century women's writing, Flesh and Spirit, due out shortly. This is her first monograph.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: 'Those Sweet and Benign Humours that Nature Sends Monthly': Reading Menstruation and Vaginal Bleeding.
2. What a small Excess is called Flooding': The Language of Menstruation and Transitional Bleedings.
3. Having the Benefit of Nature': Menarche and Female Adolescence.
4. 'Full sixteen and never yet had those': Representations of Early or Delayed Menarche
5. 'Women's Monthly Sickness': Accounting for Menstruation
6. 'Wearing of the Double Clout': Dealing with Menstrual Flow in Practice and in Religious Doctrine.
7. 'The Flower of Virginity': Hymenal Bleeding and Becoming a Woman.
8. The 'Cleansing of the Flowers after the Birth': Managing Pregnancy and Post-Partum Bleeding.
9. 'Women Grieve to Thinke they Must be Old': Representations of Menopause.
10. Conclusion

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