Old Age, Gender and Constructions of the Contemporary

by Siân Adiseshiah

10 Aug 2023
Journal of the British Academy
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Abstract: This article argues that older people – by virtue (at least in part) of their association with the past – lack visibility in dominant conceptions of the contemporary. With its (neo-)modernist emphasis on the innovative new, ‘the contemporary’ – as a descriptor of the present – aligns, prejudicially, with youth. The contemporary as category or concept is frequently discussed in metaphorical terms that align it with early phases of the life course. Within this frame older women are particularly troublesome to the discourse of the contemporary, wherein they represent a blockage in the flow of futurity. After offering a theorisation of the ways in which contemporary operates in these terms, the article concludes by considering two texts – a film, Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012), and a play, debbie tucker green’s generations (2005) – both of which craft encounters with narratives of old age and gender, and are commonly regarded as ‘contemporary’ according to the terms outlined.

Keywords: old age; ageing; contemporary; gender; Michael Haneke’s Amour; debbie tucker green’s generations

Article posted to the Journal of the British Academy, volume 11, supplementary issue 2 (Narratives of Old Age and Gender: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives)

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