The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging

By Marilyn Pearsall | Go to book overview

21
SERENITY AND POWER

Germaine Greer

When Karen Blixen was forty-six she came out of Africa back to Denmark. Her coffee plantation in Kenya had gone broke; though it was auctioned off to pay the accumulated debts, the stockholders lost more than £150,000. Her unfaithful husband, whom she had forgiven for giving her syphilis, had insisted on a divorce, which she had agreed to with reluctance. All her hopes of pregnancy had been dashed, and she had quarreled with her lover, who was killed in a plane crash days later. She had attempted suicide at least once during this turbulent time. She was so thin and frail that her friends had suggested that she go to a clinic in Montreux; there she found out that her syphilis, which had been supposed cured, had become syphilis of the spine, tabes dorsalis. The course of the disease was well known; locomotor ataxia meant she would never again walk properly, anorexia meant that food would nauseate her, she would develop per. forating stomach ulcers, and her face would soon take on a deadly pallor and be covered with a grid of tight wrinkles. Her greatest bereavement was the loss of Africa, which left her with a physical longing for the light, the sky and the bush that never faded. Crates of treasured possessions followed her to Denmark, but she did not open them for thirteen years.

Baroness Blixen's way of dealing with her intense physical and mental pain at this crisis time, a climacteric in every sense of the word, was to be reborn as Isak Dinesen. Isaac was the post-menopausal child of Abraham and Sarah, who said when he was born, "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me." Dinesen was Blixen's maiden name. She herself called this time her fourth age, saying she began to write "in great uncertainty about the whole undertaking, but, nevertheless, in the hands of both a powerful and happy spirit."

In 1934 this new forty-eight-year-old writer produced Seven Gothic Tales. In the first of the tales, "The Deluge at Norderney," a group of travelers, menaced

-253-

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The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 16
  • Part One - Situating 17
  • 1 - The Double Standard of Aging 19
  • 2 - Portnoy's Mother's Complaints 25
  • 3 - The Plight of Older Black Women 37
  • References 41
  • 4 - The Feminization of Poverty Among the Elderly 43
  • Notes 54
  • 5 - Older Women in the City 57
  • Notes 68
  • Part Two - Problematizing 71
  • 6 Friends or Foes - Gerontological and Feminist Theory 73
  • Notes 91
  • References 91
  • 7 Heresy in the Female Body - The Rhetorics of Menopause 95
  • Notes 110
  • References 110
  • 8 Gender, Race, and Class - Beyond the Feminization of Poverty in Later Life 113
  • Notes 119
  • References 119
  • 9 - The View from Over the Hill 121
  • Notes 134
  • 10 - Adult Daughters and Care for the Elderly 135
  • Notes 146
  • 11 What Setting Limits May Mean - A Feminist Critique of Danielcallahan's Setting Limits 151
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • Part Three - Representing 161
  • 12 Sunset Boulevard - Fading Stars 163
  • Notes 175
  • 13 - Remembering Our Foremothers Older Black Women, Politics of Age, Politics of Survival as Embodied in the Novels of Toni Morrison 177
  • Notes 193
  • 14 Visible Difference - Women Artists and Aging 197
  • Notes 214
  • 15 - Time Will Tell 221
  • Part Four - Privileging 227
  • 16 - Toward Another Dimension . . . 229
  • 17 - Indian Summer 233
  • 18 - In the Heat of Shadow 239
  • 19 - Mirror of Strength Portrait of Two Chilean Arpilleristas 243
  • 20 - The Space Crone 249
  • 21 - Serenity and Power 253
  • Notes 273
  • Credits 275
  • About the Book and Editor 277
  • About the Contributors 279
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