Imagining the Fetus

Imagining the Fetus : The Unborn in Myth, Religion, and Culture

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In contemporary Western culture, the word "fetus" introduces either a political subject or a literal, medicalized entity. Neither of these frameworks does justice to the vast array of religious literature and oral traditions from cultures around the world in which the fetus emerges as a powerful symbol or metaphor. This volume presents essays that explore the depiction of the fetus in the world's major religious traditions, finding some striking commonalities as well as intriguing differences. Among the themes that emerge is the tendency to conceive of the fetus as somehow independent of the mother's body - as in the case of the Buddha, who is described as inhabiting a palace while gestating in the womb. On the other hand, the fetus can also symbolically represent profound human needs and emotions, such as the universal experience of vulnerability. The authors note how the advent of the fetal sonogram has transformed how people everywhere imagine the unborn today, giving rise to a narrow range of decidedly literal questions about personhood, gender, and disability.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 20.32mm | 453.59g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 3 halftones, 14 line illustrations
  • 0195380053
  • 9780195380057
  • 2,127,337

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Review quote

Canvassing many world religions, as well as dealing capably with biblical traditions, teh contributors have assembled and analyzed a wealth of intriguing materials. ...This collection of essays will appeal to the full range of readers; it will be valuable to researchers, yet accessible enough for undergraduate courses and helpful to a general audience seeking insights beyond the rhetorical impasse of current debates. * Choice *
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About Vanessa Rebecca Sasson

Jane Marie Law is Associate Professor of Japanese Religions and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Asian Religions Ph.D. Program at Cornell University. She has been teaching at Cornell since 1989, and was the director of Religious Studies from 1997 to 2004. She is the author of Puppets of Nostalgia, considered the definitive study of Japanese ritual puppetry, and editor of two books, Waiting for the Dawn: Mircea Eliade in Perspective (co-edited with David
Carrasco) and Religious Reflections on the Human Body.

Vanessa Rebecca Sasson is a Professor of Comparative Religion in the Liberal Arts Department of Marianopolis College, where she has been teaching since 1999. She is also a Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at the University of the Free State, as well as Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University. She is the author of The Birth of Moses and the Buddha: A Paradigm for the Comparative Study of Religions.
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