Rebecca Wilkin studies treatises on generation for their tropes of author-as-father function, demonstrating how the new theory of ovism
undermined the potency of paternity as a metaphor for authorship.
The theories of procreation known as ovism
and homunculism gave different spins to this outlook in projecting the idea that tiny humans were somehow wholly present in the female egg or in the male sperm.
Chapter Two, "The Influence of the Seventeenth Century," explains how Catholic thinkers, influenced by Cartesian philosophy in combination with soon-to-be-obsolete biological theories such as "ovism
" and "preformationism," rejected the hylomorphic position officially promulgated at the Council of Vienne in 1312, to embrace the ontological position that declared a fetus fully human at conception.
Pinto-Correia focuses not on the debate between epigenesis (the ultimately prevalent theory) and preformation (what she calls the "beautiful loser"), but on the battle between the contesting factions within preformation: ovism and spermism.
Pinto-Correia employs her enormous literary and linguistic erudition to illustrate how the general prejudices against the term homunculus associated with spermism ultimately contributed to its dismissal; how ovism was automatically bolstered by the spherical nature of an egg, a universal symbol of generation (like the Earth, the Sun, and the chicken egg); and how ovism was nonetheless prejudiced for ascribing, in a patriarchal society, the chief role in generation to an egg found only in women.