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Hidden mysteries and open secrets: Negotiating age in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century culture

Butler, Rachel 2015. Hidden mysteries and open secrets: Negotiating age in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century culture. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Since the study of aging merged out of Second-wave feminism during the 1960’s, aging has been associated exclusively with the time of old age. In this study I will revisit the assumptions which have underpinned the exclusive nature of this relationship in recent historiography through an analysis of a wide-range of primary sources addressing aging as a physiological and psychic process. Whilst aging was a much contested concept; a matter for speculation and fundamentally unquantifiable, it was also in the final analysis an unregulated process which could begin at any time of life. Whilst ideas of aging were constituted in a number of contexts: medical, theological and philosophical dominate this study, I will also illustrate ways in which practices and discourses of age were interrelated, each informing the other. Historians of age have in their own ways paraphrased Joan Scott’s definition of gender, statements have however been qualified by the prefix that a certain age; either childhood or old age is a useful category of analysis. My study eschews such an approach, arguing instead that for age to become a useful category of analysis we must firstly attempt to fully understand the process which gives rise to the value judgements that certain ages are a more useful category of analysis than others. Understanding aging will make are per se a useful category of analysis in the same way that studies of masculinity, in addition to studies of femininity, have made studies of gender a useful category o analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Funders: AHRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2023 16:56

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