Mapping the Vagina: Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Scientific Specularity

Bashaw, Ashley. Mapping the Vagina: Nineteenth-Century Narratives of Scientific Specularity. 2016. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

This dissertation tracks the close and variegated imbrications of nineteenth-century science, literature, and cartography. It argues for the co-existence and co-dependency of nineteenth-century gynecology and literature through an application of cartographic history and theory to the two disciplines. Identifying these cultural formations as co-emergent subsequently creates space for an identification of their shared productivity: a violent and violating medico-clinical gaze resulting in the construction of a unique discursive field of cultural production - maps of women's bodies. Considering how gynecological maps deploy a clinical gaze that both racializes and genders bodies and in so doing reinscribes these bodies through relations of power remains a major aim of this project. A use of cartographic theory highlights the techniques and modes by which gynecological maps actually redefine and reconstruct bodies largely in service to white heteronormative aims. In this manner, gynecology, cartography, and literature are approached as political discourses whose objectives are frequently shared: the acquisition and maintenance of social power. At stake in an insistence on the centrality of mapping the female body to both nineteenth-century literature and gynecology is a destabilization of not only prevailing nineteenth-century presumptions about normative gender and sexuality, but also current presumptions that still remain attached to their nineteenth-century counterparts.

Status of Research or Work: 
Research Type: