McTavish, Lianne 1967-
McTavish, Lianne 1967-
Born September 16, 1967, in London, Ontario, Canada. Education: University of Western Ontario, B.A. (honors), 1990; University of Rochester, M.A., 1993, graduate certificate, 1994, Ph.D., 1996.
Art historian, educator, art curator, and writer. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, professor of history of art, design and visual culture; University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, faculty member, 1996—. Also associate curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, 2003-07, served as member of Acquisitions Committee, 1997-2003, and chair of Acquisitions Committee, 2003-07.
Recipient of research and publication grants.
Vision: The Marion McCain Atlantic Art Exhibition 2004 = Vision: L'Exposition d'art Atlantique Marion McCain 2004, Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 2004.
Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, Ashgate Publishing (Burlington, VT), 2005.
Contributor to books, including Museum, Handbuch Populäre Kultur (title means "Handbook of Popular Culture"), edited by Hans-Otto Hügel, J.B. Metzler Verlag, 2003; and New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction, edited by Janet Marstine, Blackwell, 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Cultural Studies, RACAR (Revue d'art Canadienne/Canadian Art Review), Woman's Art Journal, Journal of the Society for the Social History of Medicine, C, Arts Atlantic, Acadiensis, Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Feminism in Action, Border Crossings, Medical History, Journal of the History of the Atlantic Region, Cultural Studies, the German Lexikon Populare Kultur.
Lianne McTavish is an art historian whose primary area of interest is early modern French visual culture with a specialization in images of health, healing, childbirth, and anatomical dissection. She also is interested in the history of museums with a specialization in critical museum theory.
In her book Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, the author examines how male surgeons in early modern France received a bad reputation for their role in childbirth largely because they were called in very late when the mother's life was already at stake and the child was already likely to die. McTavish writes about how these French surgeons eventually managed to change their image primarily by attending even uncomplicated deliveries among the urban wealthy. Throughout, McTavish is concerned primarily with the medical, social, and cultural factors that contributed to the transition rather than the idea of increased medical knowledge. Her analysis includes a close examination of the visual culture of early modern French childbirth, including the vivid author portraits and images of unborn figures in obstetrical treatises.
"During the early modern period, the belief that childbirth was best left to women was challenged, but the technocratic model of birth now commonplace in Canada, the United States and much of Western Europe—with its lack of respect for women's bodily knowledge—was far from established; it became dominant in the twentieth century," the author writes in her book. "There was no single kind of authoritative obstetrical knowledge in early modern France, but rather various articulations of knowledge vying for status. I consider how claims about authority in childbirth were organized and displayed, advanced and defended in obstetrical treatises." The author adds: "I argue the treatises neither merely delivered male medical knowledge nor disparaged maternal experience."
The author writes that many of the medical treatises concerning obstetrics at that time did support the male French surgeons' ability to handle births successfully. However, she points out that, at the same time, "they also appreciated the firsthand, bodily experience of maternity traditionally associated with women." Treatises were also written by female midwives that largely supported their expertise in obstetrics. According to American Historical Review contributor Nina Rattner Gelbart, the author "has written an extremely interesting study of the vying for authority among and between male and female childbirth practitioners in early modern France, analyzed from an art historical perspective."
The author begins her book with a survey of French obstetrical treatises from 1550-1730, with a focus on the visual and rhetorical conventions used to display childbirth. The second chapter, titled "Risking Exposure: The Visual Politics of Childbirth," examines how female midwives controlled much of the "looking" at childbirth, from the patients' views to that of the French surgeons and male midwives who were their competitors. In the next two chapters, the author examines portraits portraying both female midwives and the male-surgeon-midwife. In Chapter 5, "Bodies in Labour: Rhetoric, Rivalry, and Male Maternity," McTavish writes directly of the rivalry between male midwives and surgeons. The author ends her book by looking specifically at images of the fetus and what they say about authority, as well as the status of the fetus.
"Lianne McTavish's analysis of obstetrical treatises in Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France provides a unique and rich perspective to the historical understanding of birth and midwifery in early modern Europe," wrote Helen Kang in the Communications Review. "Taking an interdisciplinary approach by invoking theories in feminist studies of reproduction, studies in visual culture, and art history, McTavish reveals that these treatises, rather than mere instructional texts, are sites of contestations of meaning and medical authority in early modern France." Writing in the Journal of the History of Science in Society, Cynthia Klestinec noted: "McTavish's approach to her materials derives from the newer traditions of inquiry in art history that emphasize reception, adaptation, and use rather than authorship or attribution. An important study of early modern French midwifery, this book should appeal to historians of the early modern period and those who specialize in the history of medicine, surgery, and gender."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
McTavish, Lianne, Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, Ashgate Publishing (Burlington, VT), 2005.
American Historical Review, April, 2006, Nina Rattner Gelbart, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, p. 569.
Communication Review, Volume 9, issue 3, 2006, Helen Kang, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, p. 247.
Isis, March, 2007, Cynthia Klestinec, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, p. 184.
Journal of History and Science in Society, March, 2007, Cynthia Klestinec, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, pp. 184-185.
Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 2006, Valerie Worth-Stylianou, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, p. 180.
SciTech Book News, June, 2005, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, p. 109.
Sixteenth Century Journal, winter, 2006, Linda Rouillard, review of Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France, p. 1089.
University of Alberta Department of Art & Design Web site,http://www.ualberta.ca/~artdesin/ (May 28, 2009), faculty profile of author.
University of New Brunswick History Department Web site,http://www.unbf.ca/arts/History/ (May 28, 2009), faculty profile of author.