From Publishers Weekly
The word "age" in contemporary parlance often means nothing more than the evaporation of youth and the onset of inevitable, ghastly decay. Gullette, author of an award-winning study of age defiance in popular culture (Declining to Decline), is disturbed not just by the reductiveness of this idea, but the "anomalies in our celebratory age ideology" as well. Her ambitious examination of the forces behind various age norms calls for profound changes in the way we think about age, both socially and culturally. Starting with the deep dread that infects both youth and the apparent embrace of seniority, Gullette looks at a number of phenomena: the "age-wage curve" and its disappointed expectations; the much-ballyhooed economic clash between Baby Boomers and the next generation and how the deaths of children in fiction reflect larger, nonparental anxieties about aging. The result is essentially a polemic against ageism or rather specifically "middle-ageism." The second part mines a much richer vein of ideas about age and personal identity, and begins to lay out the groundwork for a cross between a sociological discipline and a critical theory of age. Here Gullette considers the relation between physical and conceptual age, how the body wears and is worn by its years; how we understand and might revise our place in the life-cycle and our own private narratives. Written in the jumpy, jargony, crypto-conversational style now common among academics, this complex book is an important intellectual resource for anyone who wants to think seriously about the way personal and cultural time lines can, or should, interact.
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From the Inside Flap
Americans enjoy longer lives and better health, yet we are becoming increasingly obsessed with trying to stay young. What drives the fear of turning 30, the boom in anti-aging products, the wars between generations? What men and women of all ages have in common is that we are being insidiously aged by the culture in which we live.
In this illuminating book, Margaret Morganroth Gullette reveals that aging doesn't start in our chromosomes, but in midlife downsizing, the erosion of workplace seniority, threats to Social Security, or media portrayals of "aging Xers" and "greedy" Baby Boomers. To combat the forces aging us prematurely, Gullette invites us to change our attitudes, our life storytelling, and our society. Part intimate autobiography, part startling cultural expose, this book does for age what gender and race studies have done for their categories. Aged by Culture is an impassioned manifesto against the pernicious ideologies that steal hope from every stage of our lives.