Feminist Folklore In Ami McKay’s The Birth House
thesisposted on 2021-05-23, 11:03 authored by Allison Munday
INTRODUCTION Ami McKay’s novel The Birth House presents both maritime lore and superstition, in relation to the female, through McKay’s explorations of motherhood, childbirth, and midwifery practices. The Birth House opens sometime in the midst of World War I, and chronicles the life of central character Dora Rare, as she embraces the practice of midwifery, and in doing so embraces the folkloric traditions passed down to her from matriarch midwife Miss. B. Through the acceptance of the unruly woman, and the maintaining of matriarchal spaces in The Birth House, McKay advocates for a matriarchal society which values the physical and emotional experiences of women over the rational order of the patriarchy. In studying the figure of the midwife, it is essential to first understand the complicated history of the figure, who has long been associated with witchcraft and secrecy. In reflecting on the treatment of midwives throughout history, and how the field came to be dominated by men, I argue that McKay’s narrative becomes even more pressing. For centuries the female body has been viewed as disordered, associated with the abject and the grotesque, while the male form has been associated with purity and reason. The grotesque is an element that McKay embraces in the novel, as she does not shy away from descriptions that include blood, sweat, death, and decay. In this way, McKay is attempting to reclaim the female body, fluids and all, in advocating for her matriarchal community.