(P)rescription Narratives:
Feminist Medical Fiction and the Failure of American Censorship

Under Contract with Edinburgh University Press. Forthcoming, July 2022. (P)rescription Narratives reveals how the act of narrative creates the subjects of disability, race, and gender during a period of censorship in American history. In a Crip Affect reading of woman-authored medical fiction from the Comstock Law era, Stephanie Peebles Tavera argues that women writers of medical fiction practice storytelling as a form of narrative medicine that prescribes various forms of healing as an antidote to the shame engineered by an American culture of censorship. The woman-authored medical fiction of Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, among others, exposes the limitations of social construction and materiality in conversations about the female body since subject formation relies upon multiple force relations that shape and are shaped by one another in ongoing processes that do not stop even in our efforts to interpret cultural artifacts. These multiple failures – to censor, to resist, to interpret – open up a space for negotiating how we engage the world with greater empathy.


Part of the Interventions in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture series, edited by Christopher Hanlon, Sarah Ruffing Robbins, and Andrew Taylor.
Helen Brent, M.D. by Annie Nathan Meyer (1892)

Hastings College Press, 2020. Edited and with an Introduction by Stephanie Peebles Tavera. WINNER OF HONORABLE MENTION, 2021 SSAWW BOOK EDITION AWARD. Annie Nathan Meyer’s 1892 novel Helen Brent, M.D. narrates one woman’s struggle for public acceptance as a doctor and a lady among the New York City elite. Unlike earlier works of medical fiction, Helen Brent M.D. does not offer just a marriage-or-career narrative but also a treatise on sex education. Dr. Brent is a skilled surgeon, a New Woman, who also deals with the negative effects of venereal diseases and other social ills of the urban elite on women’s health. Purchase on Amazon or Barnes & Noble