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Project: Roberta Maierhofer (Publication)

A New Approach to Literary and Cultural Studies

By focusing on intersectionality as a theoretical and methodological basis for studying interdisciplinary and inter-regional topics, this project allows us to draw conclusions about connections relating to the history of ideas, and offers a new approach to literature and culture. So far few studies have attempted a theoretical positioning of the topic. The project is grounded in a theoretical approach developed by Roberta Maierhofer at the beginning of the 1990s. “Anocriticism” is an approach in Age and Aging Studies based on Elaine Showalter’s definition of “gynocriticism,” which enables an understanding of what it means to be “aged by culture” - in Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s term. Maierhofer uses the term “anocriticism” to express an interpretational approach that validates individual experience of age and aging in resistance of normative assumptions. As feminist theory distinguishes between sex and gender, so should a distinction be made between chronological age and the cultural stereotypes associated with old people, which would help escape the confining binary opposition of young and old, female and male. Starting with the premise that age – similar to race, class, and gender – does not flow naturally or inevitably from the individual’s anatomical body, anocritical scholarship analyzes the way age identity is constructed in literature and in society, for both young and old. By determining in what way “youth” and “age” come to have certain meanings at a particular place and time, and stressing the necessary interrelatedness of these meanings, an understanding can be reached that what is considered typically “young” in a given society depends in part on being different from what is “old” and what is “old” on not being “young.” By placing literature in a social, cultural, and political context, existing disciplines and traditional paradigms can be reconstructed. When analyzing texts from the Americas, the topic of aging can trace lines of identity that are both divisions as well as crossings.


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