Early Modern Spain:
history, culture, daily life, literature, art
History of Medicine/ Obstetrics
(Vernacular) medical treatises
History of Childbirth and Midwivery
Spanish Queens/ Habsburg court
UCLA Librarian (Jan. 1970) about the treatise:
„The book is a strange mixture of good sense and superstition. It is a compendium about what has been written and said about pregnancy and the newborn from ancient times, and thus is a treasure-trove of folklore.“
The main subject of my research is a Spanish treatise from 1606, Diez previlegios para mujeres preñadas (“Ten privileges for pregnant women”), written by physician and professor Juan Alonso de Fontecha who skillfully connects obstetrics, gynecology, and gender debate.
The around 490 pages text is particularly interesting and promising for an interdisciplinary investigative purpose because it aimed to concede special rights and more individual freedom to expectant mothers and to enable them to take a more active social role during and after pregnancy. It might therefore seem surprising that the treatise has never been edited before, which is one of my three main objectives.
The second task proposed is to provide an apparatus of annotations that elucidates certain names and concepts. Secondly, it is necessary for this new edition to offer additional information and explications in footnotes, particularly when it comes to the quoted names which will be also be listed in the index
And lastly, an extensive monographic introductory study shall approach several topics of interest. Those will be briefly outlined in the following:
I have intended a reconstruction of historic semantics and a presentation of the various lines of discourse. We will not find mere “medical” information, because those notions are complemented by other cultural concepts, e.g. theological-religious or political-juridical aspects, but also narrative contents. Based on ancient authorative knowledge on the one hand (e.g. from Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna) and personal experience or orally traded popular science on the other hand, the text suggests various interpretations of women’s status, authority, and significance within the Spanish society around 1600. Hence, the Ten Privileges are also a valuable piece of gender debate and gender history, for instance when the author defends all women’s honor and good reputation and advocates the “two seeds theory”, meaning that women’s role in the process of creation is vital, active, and powerful – just as important as men’s.
The overarching objective of the study is to contextualize the treatise in the cosmos of the Spanish Golden Age in a higher dimension of abstraction and interpretation which might allow to reveal elementary concepts of humanity linked to pregnancy and birth: the necessity of giving birth, the changes this implies (higher prestige but also vulnerability), female intimacy (and ideas connected to it like purity, shame, taboos), the cultural ritualization of a physical process; and finally the primary and primordial bond which is first tied at birth and lays the foundation for social and cultural identity.
All those concepts coin a culture and can determine how symbolic order is created and how people and especially women perceive their position within the world. All this is to be found out in detail.