6.0697 Madame Bovary and Birth Control? (1/45)

Tue, 4 May 1993 16:20:37 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0697. Tuesday, 4 May 1993.

Date: Sat, 1 May 1993 18:09:24 +0800 (WST)
From: tunwin@uniwa.uwa.edu.au (Tim Unwin)
Subject: Birth Control/Madame Bovary

Some thoughts and questions about Emma Bovary's birth-control methods:

Much has been written about _Madame Bovary_ but I have yet to come
across any discussion of the very obvious risk Emma runs of becoming
pregnant by one of her lovers. Yet one question that my students often
ask me is how, precisely, does she avoid the problem? The only answer
that I can give is that she, her lovers and her author all seem to be
unaware of it. The pregnancy that does occur (i.e. within Emma's
marriage) is,in fact, presented as though it has nothing to do with
any physical relationship. Yet Flaubert does not seem to be averse to
expatiating on the risks elsewhere (in his correspondence the
'irregularities' of Louise Colet become the occasion of diatribes
against the whole procreative process; and in _L'Education sentimentale_
there is an illegitimate birth). My questions to Humanist colleagues are

1) Why should the link between physical love and pregnancy be so
conspicuously overlooked in _Madame Bovary_?

2) Or perhaps there are hidden references to the problem, but which I
haven't picked up? If so, where?

3) And what would a provincial woman in Emma's situation have
thought/done about unwanted pregnancy? (Passed it off as the husband's
work, having hastily resumed marital relations?)

4) What was the thinking about birth control? What methods were
available? Does anyone know of a
really good book (or even a really bad one) on the subject?

5) And finally, does anybody know of any references to this problem in
the secondary literature on Flaubert?

Thanks. You can see I've been having some pretty interesting tutorials.

Tim Unwin.
Tim Unwin                              Phone: 09 380 2174/2176
Department of French Studies              (+61 9 380 2174/2176)
The University of Western Australia    Fax:   09 380 1080
Nedlands                                  (+61 9 380 1080)
WA 6009
                Internet: tunwin@uniwa.uwa.edu.au