This book examines changing views of procreation and fetal development throughout the history of the Christian tradition. This is the first comprehensive study of cultural perceptions of pregnancy, an area of scholarship that been understudied in the past. Pregnancy holds a central place in Christian ritual, iconography, and theology, including the dogma of the incarnation and the cult of Virgin Mary. This book provides a broad introduction to the attitudes and ideas within Western Christian communities by focusing on four periods of transition: Antiquity, the Enlightenment, modernity, and the present day. It lays the groundwork for further study of the interactions between biological models, cultural preconceptions, and religious beliefs.
Introduction. Part I. Beginnings. 1. Conceptualising Pregnancy. 2. Patterns of Meaning. 3. Christian Procreation According to Augustine. 4. Pregnancy and Abortion in Medieval Society. 5. Exceptional Bodies. Part II. The Enlightenment. 6. Reformation. 7. Theories of Procreation. 8. Varieties of Scientific Truth. Part III. Modernity. 9. The Female Egg and Medical Inventions. 10. The Divine Conception. 11. Fertility Under Debate. Part IV. Contemporary Debates. 12. Women and the Virgin in the 20th Century. 13. Legal Abortion. 14. Foetus or Child. 15. Objectification. Afterthoughts. Index. Bibliography.