DOI: 10.1177/00472816231216913 ISSN: 0047-2816

Birthing Genre: Conventions of Rhetorical Situation and Accessibility of Information in Midwifery Manuals

Rebecca E. Burnett, Courtney A. Hoffman
  • Education
  • Communication

We ask, “What genre conventions are shared in 18th- and 21st-century midwifery manuals?” The article responds to this question by situating manuals as cultural arbiters and defining genre in a cultural context. The article identifies parallels between 18th-century and 21st-century midwifery manuals that focus on the rhetorical situation (via front matter, including title pages and prefaces) and accessibility of information (via design, definitions, and step-by-step procedures). Midwifery practices have changed drastically in the modern era, but the underlying goals—safety and health for the birthing person and child—remain constant. Increased publication of manuals dedicated to midwifery in the 18th century suggests a heightened focus on practices leading to successful outcomes in childbirth that highlight the value of examining manuals as a genre reflecting humanistic elements in technical documents. We argue that midwifery manuals emphasize underlying ideologies in the production and reproduction of socio-cultural consciousness still present today.

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