About the project
Conceiving Histories is a project initiated by Isabel Davis which concerns the time of pre-pregnancy, exploring the space between literature, history and art. It is funded by Birkbeck, University of London and the Wellcome Trust.
Conceiving Histories looks into the archives to find a history of pre-pregnancy: that is, the diagnostic ambiguity of early pregnancy, the experience of trying to conceive and the politics of childlessness in the past. This is a study of fantasies about the body, about objective and scientific knowledge, and of parenthood. Conceiving Histories investigates the very ordinary experience of not being pregnant for month on month; the difficulties for medical professionals in diagnosing pregnancy; and men’s anxieties about their own reproductive fortunes. It looks at fakes and fashions, dreams and denials, trying and testing.
The project will identify and research case studies from different historical moments, asking: how was the time of pre-pregnancy described and negotiated in the past and what might a historical knowledge of this time contribute to contemporary debates around fertility, trying to conceive and childlessness?
This project is principally a collaboration between literary history and visual art.
Isabel Davis is an academic in the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on medieval literature, gender, temporality and the body.