Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment, of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Humanities, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora."
This thesis is a combination of novel and exegesis, united by an interest in assisted reproductive technology (ART). It looks at the ways in which this technology— sperm, egg and embryo donation, in vitro fertilisation—is changing the nature of family, and the role story is playing to help society process and make sense of these changes. In the novel, Sisters of Spicefield, Jessica and Matt Davidson are parents of four children from IVF, who have previously donated a leftover embryo. Their story begins some years later when a new girl starts at their children’s school, and Jessica realises this child, Mia, is her biological offspring: the embryo born of her and Matt’s donation years before. Jessica has in the intervening years lost one of her own children to a genetic illness. Still grief-stricken, she finds herself drawn to Mia, and increasingly concerned about Mia’s fraught home life. The novel examines the almost illicit affection Jessica feels for Mia, and the tense relationship between Jessica and Mia’s mother Carolyn. This book asks: who has the right to love whom, as reproductive technology, adoption and divorce transform our ideas of family? Can we push aside a biological bond, or not? It also charts a family’s journey through grief after the death of a son, aided by their unexpected chance to help someone else’s daughter. The exegesis looks at a number of stories, in the medium of novel, journalism and film, to examine how the stories of ART are evolving, as this ground-breaking technology moves into the mainstream. It looks at how various story-makers are portraying characters in these stories, and at some of the risks and opportunities inherent in moving to a much wider model of family, with multiple new roles.
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