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April 28 , 2010

Reproduction by Design

Sex, Robots, Trees, and Test-Tube Babies in Interwar Britain


Modernity in interwar Europe frequently took the form of a preoccupation with mechanizing the natural; fears and fantasies revolved around the notion that the boundaries between people and machines were collapsing. Reproduction in particular became a battleground for those debating the merits of the modern world.
That debate continues today, and to understand the history of our anxieties about modernity, we can have no better guide than Angus McLaren. In Reproduction by Design, McLaren draws on novels, plays, science fiction, and films of the 1920s and '30s, as well as the work of biologists, psychiatrists, and sexologists, to reveal surprisingly early debates on many of the same questions that shape the conversation today: homosexuality, recreational sex, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, sex change operations, and in vitro fertilization.
Here, McLaren brings together the experience and perception of modernity with sexuality, technology, and ecological concerns into a cogent discussion of science’s place in reproduction in British and American cultural history.

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