Charlotte Christina Fink: Spinsters Reloaded

The dissertation’s main objective will be to point attention to, dive into, and explore the lives and representations of older single women in American popular culture, aiming at the investigation of how older single women are in fact represented and portrayed in the American media. The basic question is what the connotations of being old and single within the American frame of reference are, while special attention will be drawn to the correlation of women and aging and the intercultural context within America’s multicultural society. Research questions, amongst others, are therefore, how visible are single older women in American popular culture, really; what could the representations’ or portrayals’ message be to younger women and society, and what do these representations tell us about the culture which they are part of? The project is not intended to be part of, or else include, a quantitative study though, but a qualitative assessment and illustration of the characters of single older women and their designated lives and roles in American popular culture.

As its (working) title implies, the prevailing notion of ‘spinsters’ in society and culture will be at the center of attention, i.e. the focus will be less on the individual woman’s self-concept and how she sees herself (as part of an empirical socio-psychological study for instance), but on how culture sees and thinks about her which is shown in depictions of single women of age. Portrayals in films and the language used to describe single older women are therefore seen as possible methods to gain insight into these cultural connotations of single older women. And no matter if those depictions and descriptions do in fact correspond to an empirical reality, it is argued that they are still a lively part of society that people do or do not respond to.

(University of Graz)