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Conflicting Female Identities in Old Age: The Representation of Older Women in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord (pp. 87-105)

Inesa Shevchenko

Universidad de Lleida


In the last decades, ageing has become one of the most important social issues to attract the attention of academics from the social sciences and the humanities. As an interdisciplinary research domain, ageing studies allow scholars to explore the meanings of old age through the various fields that intersect with it. As one of those intersections, theatre offers unquestionable opportunities to analyse its portrayals and to dispute the dominant “master narrative of decline” based on a vision of ageing as an inevitable biological, psychological and social decay (Gullette 2004). Despite the increasing interest of scholars in the analysis of old age in widely-acclaimed classical and contemporary plays, scant attention has been paid to the representation of older female characters in lesser known dramatic texts. While their thriving visibility in the contemporary plays is undeniable, the portrayal of older female characters is rather ambiguous as often based on ageist stereotypes. This paper offers a close reading of Ripcord, a comedy by the American playwright, lyricist and screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Rabbit Hole. Foregrounding issues of care related to senior living facilities, as well as aspects of old-age identity and of later-life creativity, this study interrogates liminal and stereotyped categorizations of older female characters in contemporary plays through one particular case study.

Keywords: ageing; theatre; gender; old-age identity; later-life creativity


Inesa Shevchenko is a second year PhD research student within the Department of English and Linguistics in the University of Lleida. In December 2018, she received a pre-doctoral fellowship by the UdL which allows her to develop a research project about the representations of female ageing in contemporary dramatic texts within the English-speaking world. After legalizing her BA degree in English Philology (Ukraine), she obtained her MA in Secondary Education Teacher Training and Language Teaching. Nowadays, she is one of the group members of the research project “Ageing, Quality of Life and Creativity through Narrative” supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. She actively takes part in the research tasks of Grup Dedal-Lit, led by her PhD supervisor, Dr Núria Casado Gual, and offers technical support to the theatre workshop that Dr Casado devises and directs for students of English Studies of the University of Lleida.

e-mail address: inesa.shevchenko@udl.cat


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