College of Liberal Arts

A Simulacrum of Birth​: ​The Pedagogical Instruments and Obstetrical Course of Madame du Coudray​

Friday Jan 20, 2017 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM | GAR 1.102

The History and Philosophy of Science Colloquium,
Symposium on Gender, History, and Sexuality, and
Department of History

Scottie Hale Buehler, C.P.M., M.A.
Ph.D. Candidate in History
University of California Los Angeles

​"​A Simulacrum of Birth​: ​The Pedagogical Instruments and Obstetrical Course of Madame du Coudray​" ​

In 1756 Madame du Coudray received an official approbation from the College of Surgery for her midwifery mannequin. The combination of her textbook, Abrégé de L’art des Accouchements, and mannequin earned her a brevet from Louis XV to travel the French countryside teaching obstetrics. The second edition added 26 color plates—the first in obstetrics—utilizing the new technology of color mezzotinting. Analyzing her textbook, mannequin, and images as scientific instruments brings her pedagogical practices and their social, cultural contexts to the forefront. This approach recognizes the embodied nature of thinking and attempts to untangle the relationship between thought and other actions within her classroom. While maintaining that each of du Coudray’s objects (text, images, and mannequin) were self-vindicating, this paper challenges the epistemological stability of du Coudray’s program (as opposed to Hacking’s laboratory). First, du Coudray constantly adjusted her pedagogical practices and mannequin. Second, each of these objects and her broader project of educating provincial midwives frequently inspired attacks, from both male accoucheurs and female midwives. These conflicts provide crucial insight into how the users of these object engaged with them, sometimes in unanticipated ways. The resulting narrative complicates the traditional history of midwifery in which male and female practitioners operated within separate, opposing spheres of the medical world of eighteenth century France.

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