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Narratives and Metaphors of Age and Aging

My research focuses on the norms and cultural values we associate with age stages. Drawing on methods from the humanities, such as close reading, film analysis and hermeneutic interpretation, I study the representations of variously aged characters in literary texts, film and TV-series. TV-series are particularly intriguing because serial narratives offer remarkable frames to represent temporality. A sitcom, for example, uses a circular narrative structure whereas a soap opera like General Hospital can run for years and even decades; in doing so, it offers potentially infinite narrative possibilities.

My current research project focuses on metaphors, particularly metaphors of the sick human body and the ways in which non-fiction writers creatively reimagine conventional associations. A common metaphor, for example, compares the ill, disabled body to decline. This is a common comparison used for old age, too. Such metaphors are very powerful because they shape the way we think about, experience and act in response to old age and illness.

This research project on metaphors contributes to CPop by drawing attention to the ways that language powerfully shapes how we conceptualize our objects of research. Importantly, as researchers in science studies and philosophy have argued, metaphors can be generative resources and enable new ideas and entail innovative approaches. Such considerations, I would argue, are thus crucial for the way we conduct scientific research, in whatever discipline. I am also involved in a research project that tries to explore the intersections of “Data&Stories.” Stories often draw on data, and data is often extracted from stories. The emerging field of digital humanities, with its versatility for mixed methods approaches, is a particularly promising field for Peter Simonsen’s project on “geezer lit,” to which I contribute.

 

Anita Wohlmann