Harleys and Hormones: Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism deadline for abstracts: 30 November 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Imelda Whelehan, University of Tasmania; Joel Gwynne, National Institute of Education, Singapore

Call for Papers

Harleys and Hormones: Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism

The past decade has seen an increase in popular cultural representations of ageing, an increase which seems to be a response to the realities of an ageing Western population and an acknowledgement of the significance of consumption by seniors. Yet while films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) depict late middle to old age as a time of renewal and acceptance, most popular depictions of ageing focus on images of loss, decline, and the sheer repulsiveness of physically ageing 'naturally'. Ageing in popular culture is a battlefield, with increasing numbers of euphemisms used to disguise the fact of age or to incite women and men to arrest the signs of ageing by surgical or cosmetic means.

Meanwhile, feminist discourse has kept forever young, even though some of its most eminent proponents are ageing and dying. In the field of popular cultural studies the emphasis over the past decade has been on the discourse of postfeminism and the 'girling' of culture. Although this phrase carries its own implicitly ageist imagery, little work has been done on how this focus on the girl foregrounds the concerns and tribulations of young women at the expense of any focus on the older feminist herself, let alone a feminist agenda which understands ageing as a social, political and ideological effect.

This proposed collection of essays will focus on the discourse of ageing in popular culture and the discourse of contemporary feminism. It will include analyses of popular fiction and film, TV and advertising, self-help, and popular medical treatises.

The editors invite contributions on the following themes.

- links between the representation of older women and second-wave feminism and the demonizing of the 'career woman'
- Mothers and daughters and/or feminist and postfeminists
- Ageing appropriately? Seniors behaving badly
- Representations of older women as 'girly'
- older women embracing postfeminist culture
- Cougars and crones: sexing up older women
- Viagra blues: men and sexual performativity
- Empty-nesters and post-motherhood femininity
- Gendered constructions of retirement
- Eternally/newly single? Representation of divorcees/widow(er)s, and senior singles?
- Ageing and renewal: narratives of rebirth among older people
- Ageing and neoliberalism
- Ageing sex symbols
- Oldboys: older men performing postfeminist masculinity and retrosexism
- Ageing as a gender-neutral landscape via collective invisibility
- You've gotta laugh: the deployment of humour in discourses of ageing
- Feminist girl power: the girling of contemporary feminism
- Ageing and consumption
- Generation blaming – the positioning of the older generation as to blame for current social ills
- A drain on resources: representing 'value' in discourses of ageing
- 'It's my hormones': depicting menopausal rage
- Body management and keeping 'in shape'

Most scholarly work on ageing to date has focused on one aspect of culture or on the 'highbrow' particularly in the realm of literary studies. A volume which embraces 'popular culture' in the broadest terms allows for a thorough, groundbreaking exploration of how ageism infects social experiences, perceptions of the self, representations of gender and sexuality. It examines how feminism's tendency to focus on the discourses of postfeminism in popular culture render age and ageing unutterable. It will explore the irony that an increase in positive popular cultural images for older men and women has been accompanied by a similar increase in discourses which ally visible signs of ageing with traits such as personal weakness or social delinquency.

Please email abstracts of 300 words for chapters of 6,000 words to the editors, Imelda Whelehan (Imelda.Whelehan@utas.edu.au) and Joel Gwynne (joel.gwynne@nie.edu.sg) by November 30th 2012. If accepted, complete chapters will be expected by May 31st 2013.

About the Editors
Imelda Whelehan is Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Tasmania and Visiting Professor at De Montfort University's Centre for Adaptations (UK). She has written widely on feminism, women's writing, popular culture and adaptation studies. Her publications include Modern Feminist Thought, Overloaded, Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary: A Reader's Guide, The Feminist Bestseller, Fifty Key Concepts in Gender Studies (with Jane Pilcher) and Screen Adaptation (with Deborah Cartmell). She is co-editor of the journal Adaptation (OUP) and Associate Editor of Contemporary Women's Writing (OUP). She is currently working on projects about the bra, ageing women and Australian literature on screen.

Joel Gwynne is Assistant Professor of English at the National Institute of Education. His research focuses on contemporary literature, film and media studies in the context of feminism and globalization. He is the author of The Secular Visionaries: Aestheticism and New Zealand Short Fiction in the Twentieth Century and co-editor of Sexuality and Contemporary Literature (forthcoming, 2012). His articles have appeared in Commonwealth: Essays and Studies, the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, the Journal of Gender Studies and the Journal of Contemporary Asia. He is currently co-editing Postfeminism and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (with Nadine Muller).