Masculine Pregnancies

Modernist Conceptions of Creativity and Legitimacy, 1918-1939

By Aimee Armande Wilson

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Gender Studies, Queer Studies, Cultural Studies, Twentieth- And Twenty-first-century Studies
Hardcover : 9781438495590, 224 pages, December 2023
Paperback : 9781438495606, 224 pages, June 2024

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Table of contents


1. A Cultural History of Gender and Reproduction

2. Literary Obstetrics: Ezra Pound and the Midwives Act of 1902

3. Pregnancy in Faulkner’s Artist Novels: Masculinity, Sexology, and Creativity in Interwar America

4. The Mannish Woman as Fertility Goddess: How Narrative Makes a Legitimate Mother Out of Ántonia Shimerda

5. “ ‘Conceiving herself pregnant before she was’ ”: Parental Impressions and the Limits of Reproductive Legitimacy in Nightwood

Coda: Masculine Pregnancies beyond Modernism

Examines literary depictions of “mannish” pregnant women and metaphors of male pregnancy to reframe the relationship between creativity and gender in modernism.


Who is taken seriously as an artist? What does gender have to do with it? Is there a relationship between artistic creation and physical procreation? In Masculine Pregnancies, Aimee Armande Wilson argues that modernist writers used depictions of "mannish" pregnant women and metaphors of male pregnancy to answer these questions. The book places "masculine pregnancies" in works by Djuna Barnes, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, and Ezra Pound in the context of interwar debates about eugenics, immigration, midwifery, and sexology in order to redefine the relationship between creativity and gender in modernism. Attending to recent developments in queer theory, Wilson challenges the critical assumption that figures of masculine pregnancy necessarily reinforce oppressive norms. The book's first half shows how some writers indeed used such figures to delegitimize artists who were not white, male, and heterosexual. The second half then shows how others used masculine pregnancies to extend legitimacy to mannish women, dark-skinned immigrants, and their (pro)creations—and did so a century before the current boom in queer pregnancy narratives.

Aimee Armande Wilson is Associate Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Conceived in Modernism: The Aesthetics and Politics of Birth Control.


"Masculine Pregnancies opens up important new perspectives on queer reproduction. Drawing on cutting-edge work in queer and trans studies, and carefully considering the entanglements of gender, sexuality, racialization, and class, Wilson reveals the uses, meanings, and contemporary legacies of masculine pregnancy in the modernist period." — Jana Funke, coeditor of Interrogating Lesbian Modernism: Histories, Forms, Genres