Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Lesley Ferris

Second Advisor

Leslie Wade


Pregnancy and issues surrounding pregnancy such as paternity and legitimacy have been presented in Western Drama since its inception. Pregnancy in the modern era, however, has become a complex issue. Abortion, birth control, and the advent of new reproductive technologies (such as in vitro fertilization) alter understandings of reproduction. This study explores twentieth century British and U.S. dramatic representations of the pregnant woman and analyzes how pregnant women are constructed in drama. The dissertation is divided into five chapters. Chapter One explores four plays by male playwrights: Harley Granville Barker's Waste, Eugene O'Neill's "Abortion," and Sidney Kingsley's Men in White and Detective Story. Each playwright dramatizes the fall of a male protagonist caused by his lover's abortion, and each narrative displaces the pregnant woman, eventually removing her from the text. Chapter Two examines Mary Burrill's "They That Sit in Darkness" and Marie Stopes's Our Ostriches. These two plays challenge early twentieth century ideologies which in essence made birth control unavailable to working class women. Chapter Three explores feminist reconceptions of birth in Tina Howe's Birth and After Birth, Karen Malpede's A Monster has Stolen the Sun and Judy Chicago's The Birth Project. Chapter Four compares an agitprop drama by Myrna Lamb, "But What Have You Done for Me Lately?" and Jane Martin's Keely and Du. The change in tone between the two plays reflects a dramatic disintegration of support of Roe v. Wade. Chapter Five investigates Michelene Wandor's Aid Thy Neighbor, an episode of the television series Star Trek entitled "The Child," and a contemporary film, Junior. Each of these texts explores the new reproductive technologies' impact on our understanding of pregnancy. The dissertation demonstrates that dramatic representations are part of a larger meta-narrative that constructs an ever changing understanding of pregnancy and birth. Particular emphasis is placed on how social ideologies concerning women and reproduction inform texts; therefore, narratives from newspapers and magazines are included to provide the necessary social and historical backdrop. This study also suggests that current constraints on women who are pregnant reflect a larger desire to regulate the behavior of all women.