Anne Carruthers is an Associate Lecturer in Film at Newcastle. Her book Fertile Visions: The Uterus as a Narrative Space in Cinema from the Americas (2021) is part of the Bloomsbury Thinking Cinema Series, edited by Sarah Cooper and David Martin-Jones. It offers an analytical framework for close textual analysis of pregnancy and the pregnant body. Although the uterus and the womb are medical terms that are interchangeable, the womb is often used in literature, popular culture, philosophy and film as a metaphorical space to articulate concepts of life, death and rebirth or horror and abjection. The uterus as a term does not have the same cultural, historical, artistic or popular ‘baggage’, which makes the analyses of pregnancy and the pregnant body in the book distinct.
Building on gender theories, feminist theories of the body, film-philosophy, research into the foetal scan and theories of the cinematic frame, the book engages with the work of Julie Roberts on narratives around the foetal scan, Kim Sawchuck’s notion of the body as a bioscape and Vivian Sobchack’s theories of the frame as a premises for perception. It also brings Laura U. Marks’ recollection object, which describes how objects are changed in their exchange between people, and Eugenie Brinkema’s notion of the mise n’en scène, what is outside of the frame, to tackle subjects like adoption, teenage pregnancy, war trauma, ambivalent birth, abortion, miscarriage, reincarnation and pregnant embodiment in the films Juno, Gestation, Stephanie Daley, The Milk of Sorrow, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Apio verde, Up, The Bad Intentions, Birth, Arrival and Ixcanul.
The book brings into dialogue films from the Americas, north and south. This region has similarities in terms of reproductive justice. More than 97% of women of reproductive age in Latin America and the Caribbean live in countries with restrictive abortion laws, and, in the US, state legislation that restricts reproductive rights constantly threatens the right to abortion enshrined in the precedent of Roe v. Wade, which means that reproductive justice is becoming increasingly fragile. The discussion in the book steps back momentarily from context to offer a flexible framework for close textual analysis of film and introduce a new corpus of films that opens up a fresh conversation about pregnancy and the pregnant body.