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Title: Languages of Reproduction: Childbirth, Pain and Women's Consciousness in the Soviet Union and Italy (1946-1958)
Authors: Benetollo, Chiara
Advisors: Brooks, Peter
Gordin, Michael
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: catholic church
public health
Subjects: Comparative literature
Italian literature
Slavic literature
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Languages of Reproduction: Childbirth, Pain and Women’s Consciousness in the Soviet Union and Italy (1946-1958) investigates the systems of topoi, images and metaphors that characterized Soviet, Italian Communist and Italian Catholic representations of reproduction in the early Cold War period. Building on Mikhail Bakhtin’s understanding of language and discourse, I interpret recurring formulae as the result of the crystallization of repeated quotations, increasingly removed from their original context, and I shed light on the ways in which the Soviet Government, the Italian Communist Party and the Catholic Church appropriated and resematicized each other’s topoi in an effort to maintain their primacy in the sphere of reproduction and differentiate their positions while sharing the core value of pronatalism.Through the analysis of literary texts, popular magazines and documents from the archives of medical and political institutions, this dissertation retraces the strategies adopted by Catholics and Communists in the Soviet Union and in Italy to consistently uphold pronatalist values when discussing all aspects of reproduction, from scientific debates on childbirth pain to popular magazines seeking to guide individual reproductive choices. Contrary to what the actors in this story have claimed, the Soviet, Italian Communist and Catholic languages of reproduction were neither monolithic nor static. They varied internally, adjusting to the boundaries of the genres and the relationship between speakers and audiences. They also evolved over time: in the decade following the end of the Second World War, the Communist Parties of Italy and the Soviet Union, alongside the Italian Catholic Church, revised their representation of natality in the context of a broader redefinition of the Soviet, Italian Communist and Catholic individual identity, the individual’s relationship with the collective and the role of institutional authorities in mediating between the two. By drawing attention to the intersection of literary, political and medical discourses, I argue that debates on birth control, childbirth and pain contributed to the redefinition of crucial elements in the Soviet, Italian Communist and Catholic rhetorical and ideological systems, focusing on the notion of consciousness, which emerged as a central category in the representation of women’s role in childbirth.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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