Acting Age in the Long Eighteenth Century
Recent work in performance studies have trenchantly analyzed constructs of identity, gender, and race in the Long Eighteenth Century. In Rival Queens, for example, Felicity Nussbaum explores how actresses of the eighteenth century embodied and challenged femininity through their roles on and off the stage, roles that blended together in the mind of a public audience. But enlightening performance studies such as Nussbaum's do not often, however, account for age. Age cuts across gender, race, and class.
All human cultures try to explain aging, an attempt that engenders cultural expectations. Not only a reflection of genes or time, aging is a cultural discourse that affects the interpolation of identity. Acting Age in the Long Eighteenth Century shifts attention to how that cultural discourse can guide and limit how human beings interact with themselves and with society. As conceptions of history, temporality, and the body changed throughout the Long Eighteenth Century, aging slowly began to move away from the discourse of life stage towards a greater emphasis on chronological year. This shift eventually lead to classifying age by a specific chronological age cohort, a change that is a foundation for modern conceptions of aging. My panel asks scholars to examine the complex discourses of old age in culture and literature of the Long Eighteenth Century. 250 word abstract.