Aldring i kulturhistorisk perspektiv: Litteratur, medisin, psykologi, juss
George Rousseau Annual Seminar 2019


Professor George Rousseau's Annual Seminar Series 2019 engage the past as well as present and aim to historicize representations of masculine and feminine ageing.

An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess')
An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess'), Quinten Massys
The National Gallery, London


George Rousseau Annual Seminar 2019

September 10-12


Centre for Womens and Gender Studies

University of Bergen 

Despite the recent growth of critical gerontology and demography of longevity, current understanding of the narratives of old age in the light of gender remains understudied. Everyone agrees the topic is pressing, even urgent, as a result of the growth in the elderly population, yet few have adopted a sufficiently broad historical perspective capable of assessing the dominant narratives in their local cultural contexts in order to expand knowledge of the field.These seminars engage the past as well as present and aim tohistoricize representations of masculine and feminine ageing. Building on the already well-developed interdisciplinary field of gender studies, the seminars probe how our understanding of both ageing and gender can be further developed by attending to old age. Of special interest are alternative narratives that have escaped critical attention so far or been altogether neglected.

George Rousseau (Oxford University) is a cultural historian who works in the interface of literature and medicine, and emphasizes the relevance of imaginative materials - literature, especially diaries and biography, art and architecture, music - for the public understanding of medicine, past and present. He is known as one of the founders of the internationally established field of Literature and Science, and of Literature and Medicine, academic attainments that feed into the seminars he offers as a visiting professor in Bergen from 2017 2020. Rousseau is a core member of the SAMKUL research project Historicizing the ageing self: Literature, Medicine, Psychology, Law, funded by the Norwegian Research Council for the period 2016-2021.

George Rousseau’s guests for this year’s seminar include Sylvia Molloy, Wencke Mühleisen, Helge Jordheim and Jill Halstead.

Sylvia Molloy (Buenos Aires, 1938) is currently one of the most important and influential Latin American intellectuals. As an academic -she was a professor at Yale, Princeton and NYU- she is well known for her contributions in gender and queer studies, as well in translation studies. Also a novelist and an essayist, she has been, for many years, a writer's writer but her last books have reached a wider public. These last works (Desarticulaciones, Vivir entre lenguas and Citas de lecturas) are explorations on memory and identity prompted and challenged by aging. In these books, Molloy registers the deterioration of a dear friend suffering from Alzheimer, explores the relation between language and identity, and looks back into her own life throughout the books and authors that left a mark on her intellectual project.

Wencke Mühleisen was professor of gender studies at the University of Stavanger from 2008 to 2014. She is currently working as a freelance scholar and author. Mühleisen has published several academic books in which she explores questions related to gender, sexuality, feminism and politics. The novel, Kanskje det ennå finnes en åpen plass i verden (2015), is based on the story of her past as a performance artist and her life in a radical artists’ collective in Austria. The epistolary novel, All gjeldende fornuft (2017), is a reflection on female ageing, resonating with her most recent essay - Hetetokt: Rabalder med overgangsalder! (2018) - on conceptions of menopause in science and cultural history. Mühleisen has also written poignantly about her parents, especially about her mother's death in a mixed genre which recalls Annie Ernaux and Simone de Beauvoir's disturbing accounts of their aged and ailing mothers' last months and days.