Prof. Dr. Roberta Maierhofer (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz): "Anocriticism as Resistance: Narratives of Age/ing Against the Grain"

Thursday, 25.07.2019, 10:15-11:45 a.m., U5/02.22

Despite still prevalent images of aging as decay and decline, the past decades have brought about a radical change in scholarship concerning our understanding of age and aging establishing Age/ing Studies as a formidable force to understand the life-course and its meaning differently. Cultural representations of our material realities of embodied beings in the matrix of time and experience have been recognized in their ambivalence. In this presentation, Prof. Maierhofer will introduce a way of discussing age and aging as resistance in the recognition of our lives as a creative story. When Nancy K. Miller talks about aging as a creative act, a "coming to terms with a face and body," a dialogue between the internal and external, she positions the narrative as central. Ancocriticism as an approach validates this creative narrative act as an alternative way of imagining subjectivity and embodiment over the life-course. By linking theories of gender and age, Prof. Maierhofer proposes a search for a specific culture of aging in the tradition of Elaine Showalter's "gynocriticisn" – a study of women writers and of the history, styles, themes, genres, and structures of writing by women. Germaine Greer uses the Latin word "anus" – "old woman" – to create the term of "anophobia" to describe the fear of old women. Prof. Maierhofer suggests the term "anocriticism" as a method to trace the aspect of aging through narratives in order to generate understanding for what it means – in Margaret Morganroth Gullette's term – to be "aged by culture." In order to explain anocriticism in more detail, she will interpret Linda Grant's auto/biography Remind Me Who I Am, Again (1998) as an anocritical text. If identity is defined by both continuity and change over a life course, the importance is to not only narrate one's life, but also interpret these narrations in an on-going process of dialogue. Especially in terms of age/ing, the feminist approach of knowing both one's possibilities as well as one's limitations is a political act of resistance.

Roberta Maierhofer is Professor of American Studies at the University of Graz, Austria, and Adjunct Professor at Binghamton University, New York. From 1999-2011, she served as Vice Rector for International Relations of the University of Graz. Since 2007, she has been directing the Center for Inter-American Studies of the University of Graz. Her research focuses on (Inter)American Literature and Cultural Studies, Feminist Literature and Research, Gender Studies, Transatlantic Cooperation in Education, and Age/Aging Studies. In her publication Salty Old Women: Gender, Age, and Identity in American Culture, she developed a theoretical approach to gender and age/ing (anocriticism), and was thus in the early 1990s one of the first to define her work within the field of Cultural/ Narrative Gerontology.