Feminist dystopias are a significant marker of women’s overall state of dissatisfaction within a given time and socio-cultural context. The contemporary rediscovery and rise in popularity of dystopias authored by women points to a shift in the political and socio-cultural climate worldwide. Specifically, recent dystopias such as Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich, The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh, and Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed address contemporary anxieties concerning the future of women’s reproductive rights. These novels investigate the understanding and value of women’s childbearing potential in societies where birth rates have plummeted due to increasing infertility (or where evolution has reversed itself), and where pregnancy has thus become heavily state-regulated. In these dystopic futures, pregnancy is presented as both a miracle and a curse, a status which elevates a woman above all others, but which also condemns her to isolation and confinement, as well as to losing control over her own body. To this end, female characters develop highly conflicting feelings towards their pregnant bodies: while they care for and strive to protect their foetuses, they also often seek to manipulate, pause, or even end their own bodily existence, so as to escape this particular embodied state as well as its social significance. In my paper, I seek to examine how the tension between the pregnant women’s dual wish for regaining ownership of their bodies and for becoming dis-embodied, is created and manifested both in the narrative and through the use of language.

About the speaker

Eleonora Rossi (BA, MA) is an MPhil/PhD candidate in English & Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research examines the link between womanhood, reproduction, and spatial confinement in key contemporary Anglo-American feminist dystopias. Prior to her MPhil/PhD, Eleonora read for an MA in Sociology (Gender, Media and Culture) at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she focussed on street harassment as well as on the literary articulation of women’s experiences while walking in the city.

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