“Bodies torn in Two: Pregnancy and Birth Imagery in Gabriele Reuter’s Tränenhaus”

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The late nineteenth and early twentieth century brought issues of female sexuality to the forefront of not only medical, but also political, religious and artistic debates. Of central importance is moreover, that women had now acquired a public and central position in these discussions, as organizations like Helene Stöcker’s association for motherhood and sexual reform show. Gabriele Reuter’s 1908 novel Das Tränenhaus is a case in point. The novel tells the story of a young upper middle-class woman, a published writer no less, withdrawing from public life to the country after getting pregnant by her fiancé. She becomes a boarder in an establishment where young unmarried and pregnant women can spend the time of their pregnancy and give birth under the supervision of a pseudo-professional midwife, a greedy woman solely motivated by financial profit. This birthing house with its boarders from various social backgrounds provides a rich palette for the discussion of women’s sexuality especially in regard to reproductive issues at the period. Pregnancy and motherhood for most of these women becomes an issue that splits them in half, torn between their maternal feelings and the social stigma attached to extramarital motherhood. Reuter portrays the various shifting attitudes of these women towards themselves through a rich body imagery, which at times appears enamored and at the same time disgusted with the pregnant female form. Tracing Reuter’s deeply conflicted and graphic depiction of women’s perspectives on sexuality and its ties to the social power structure provides a rare glimpse at women’s artistic and public engagement with controversial issues at the time.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - Apr 7 2010
Event41st NEMLA Conference - Montreal
Duration: Apr 7 2010Apr 7 2010


Conference41st NEMLA Conference


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