When does childhood begin and end? And youth? When did the concept of middle age emerge? Why do modern manners mean that birthdays may be marked at each decennial? We have generated a wide range of social clocks, maps and calendars by which the allocation of our personal time, lived out in the context of the endlessness of social time, may be navigated in a manner which generally either maintains social order, or allows for recognisable disorder (war, famine, disaster etc.) Death as a concept has therefore waxed and waned in its popularity and has undergone a variety of meanings in its career.
A long-standing approach has emerged and survived, that being a system of ordering of human time, where time is deemed to be personal, and its living is divided by period or stage. Often marked by rituals and pastimes, sometimes accompanied with particular kinds of behaviour, masks and scripts, these periods or literally ‘times of life’ have become somewhat popularised in more recent times. Prone to commercialisation and useful for maintaining kith and kin relations, these have been extensively developed within our symbolic system. This paper examines the emergence of the idea of the phases of life, and the rise of the idea of being middle aged in particular, looking back to its medieval origins.
Professor Judith Burnett studied Sociology at the University of Nottingham and then an MA in Politics at Trent Polytechnic. She subsequently worked in the creative and software industries before gaining a PhD in the sociology of generations, and taking up a lectureship at the University of East London. She has worked as a Dean and interim Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton and is currently Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Humanities, with a University responsibility for student experience at the University of Greenwich. She is keenly interested in the human experience of the life course and the cultural attitudes towards ageing and becoming middle aged.
This free seminar is open to all but booking is required via the Eventbrite website.
Location: Room 115, Rolle Building, Plymouth University.
Email the IHC with any queries regarding this seminar.
Please visit this Eventbrite page for details of other IHC events.