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Cross cultural project to focus on representations of ageing women

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A ground breaking new book on women and ageing will be the initial outcome of a research project launched last month by the China Australia Writing Centre.

Adopting an innovative creative/critical approach, in which memoir, fiction and life writing, stand alongside traditional critical research essays, the book will expose and interrogate entrenched stereotypes of older women in both cultures, which are in conflict with the experience of lived reality.

Chinese and Australian scholars from across the fields of cultural studies, journalism, life writing, creative writing, history and translation studies, met on the Curtin campus recently to plan the project and discuss ideas for this first publication which is titled, What Makes Us Old? Representations of Older Women in Chinese and Australian Writing.

‘This collection will be an exercise in self-reflection and critical cultural commentary;’ Centre Director, Associate Professor Liz Byrski said. ‘It is an eclectic endeavour to intervene in the entrenched narratives of ageing in Chinese and Australian life and culture.’

Visitors from Centre partner, Fudan University, as well as the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE), Ocean University of China OUC) and the University of Tasmania came to Curtin for discussions with staff from the Creative and Professional Writing and Journalism programs, as well as John Curtin Distinguished Professors, Dr Dawn Bennett and Dr Anna Haebich.

‘It was a week of lively and engaging discussion,’ Dr Byrski said. ‘We canvassed a range of ideas and reached agreement on a number of projected outcomes including books, journal special editions and a major grant application. We believe that this will deliver new and exciting writing and shine a spotlight on the ways in which ageing women are represented in a variety of genres.’

Foremost in establishing the project was Professor Imelda Whelehan from the University of Tasmania, who was able to lead most of the early discussions.

‘Professor Whelehan is internationally known for her work on representations of women in both literature and film and her leadership was of enormous value in steering us towards the most effective outcomes.’ Dr Byrski said.

Professor Whelehan and Dr Byrski will edit the book in co-operation with Associate Professor Zhou Xiaojin from SUBIE who will be based at Curtin for several months later this year.

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