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Menopause art and the body: Contemporary tales from the daughters of hysteria

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Product Description

By Rosie McLaren and Lorrie Neilsen

Published: 2001
ISBN: 978-1-876682-22-4
Pages: xii+276
Imprint: Post Pressed


In Menopause, Art and the Body Dr Rosie McLaren, artist, psychotherapist, writer and lecturer, explores the visual and textual experiences of menopause in the work and words of twelve artists. Story-teller and curator, she draws on their artwork, visual diaries, journals, creative writing and poetry to depict the lived experience of menopause, as they re-imagine the memories and experiences which informed their changing sense of self and the lived body. In this meaning-making collaboration, the ways in which contemporary cultural meanings of femininity, sexuality and identity have influenced their artistic modes of self-representation are explored. Throughout, McLaren draws out resonances: the real and the imagined, and the internal and external sites of personal and political significance.

In writing the foreword for this fine example of leading edge research, Lorri Neilsen, Professor of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia, observes:

As researchers we are collapsing the borders and erasing boundaries that have constrained writing in both mainstream and feminist circles. This text is innovative in format and media, but more importantly, it represents research that is inclusive of its participants ... where listening becomes as or more important than telling, where poetry is lived not only on the page, but as life. McLaren is in clear command of the discourses of feminist poststructuralism, phenomenology, narrative inquiry, art, and medical research among others. ... She draws on theory as an artist selects from a palette; not randomly or haphazardly, but with a clear and steady vision that allows women artists and their experience of menopause to be the focal point, to be the work itself, not servants to someone else's discursive take on the world. For women, and for feminists, such an approach is heartening and hopeful. ...This is an inspirational, informed and passionate work.

In the first chapter McLaren acquaints the reader with the context of the research and outlines her understandings of the human body and social theories. She directs the exploration of texts towards a wide range of feminist theoretical perspectives which suggest women's biological and reproductive bodies provide spaces for re-visioning personal and social change.

The next two chapters explain how she developed her theoretical and methodological arts-based approaches enabling an innovative appropriate investigation of the phenomenon in question. This involved blending various textual expressive genres with interpretive research methodologies and philosophical viewpoints.

Six stories follow; each one portrays how artistic genres grasp particular experiences and transform them into imaginative and expressive inter-textual representations. The stories also demonstrate how this type of research is done; the practical application, and how, as a consequence, the consciousness of the participants and the researcher changes. They speak of the pitfalls, the obstacles, the unexpected discoveries, the illusions, the dead ends, and they speak of passion, emotions and feelings.

In the fourth chapter Menopause Perspecta X 5. In writing this section, McLaren adopts a different narrational approach as she moves from the realm of story-teller to that of art curator presenting a series of visual images and the poetic writings of five women. As well as portraying different voices speaking at different levels. These evocative perspectives continue the task of opening spaces for translation between word and image.

The book concludes with a reflective overview of the menopausal body, image and text. In the coda, McLaren presents the need for creating alternative spatial practices, and tells another story: the re-claimed relationship with her mother. In this final narrative, she offers possibilities for restoring a sense of menopausal self, love, hope, and a meaningful relationship with the world.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Lorri Neilsen
A Map for the Journey
List of Figures

  • In Restauro. Making the Invisible Visible

 Chapter 1

  • Re-Mapping the Ground for Question
  • Introduction
  • Situating the Researcher
  • Approaches to Understanding the Body
  • The Situation of Women's Bodies and Culture
  • The Discourses of Hysteria
  • Re-Defining Women's Bodies, Culture and Art

Chapter 2

  • Re-Mapping Methodologies
  • Introduction
  • Choosing a Theoretical Position
  • Introducing Phenomenology
  • Definitions
  • Different Approaches
  • Creating a Phenomenological Body of Knowledge & Insights
  • Phenomenology as Textual Expression
  • Phenomenology and Art as Source of Lived Experience
  • Interpreting a Work of Art
  • Phenomenology and Feminism
  • Phenomenology as Point of Departure

Chapter 3

  • Re-mapping Methods
  • Introducing Arts-based Research
  • Expressive and Arts-based Research
  • Applying the Expressive Method in Qualitative Research
  • The Story-telling Method
  • Story-telling as Lived Experience
  • Anecdotal Writing
  • Telling the Real Story. A Feminist Perspective
  • Re Presenting Qualitative Research as Poetry
  • The Question of Authority/Authorship/Appropriation
  • Observing Thematic Outcomes
  • The Women in the Study
  • The Visual Images
  • Protection of Participants
  • Anonymity, Confidentiality and Informed Consent

The Stories

  • Caroline
  • Marie
  • Fanny
  • Luce
  • Lileth
  • Sophia

Chapter 4

  • Menopause Perspecta x 5
  • Florence
  • Eileen Seymour
  • Artemesia
  • Julian

Chapter 5

  • Postscript

Chapter 6

  • Interim Reflections on Spaces for Change
  • The Phenomenon of Menopause


  • Notes towards a Work in Progress
  • Spaces for Change
    • Lived Space
    • Lived Body
    • Lived Time
    • Lived Human Relations



  • Appendix A. Science, Menopause and the Body
  • Terms Related to Menopause
  • The Biomedical Model of Menopause
  • The Transformative Power of Sex Hormones
  • The Process of Constructing a Disease
  • Women's Health: Menopause and Beyond
  • References - Appendix A
  • Appendix B. Participation. Release Agreement
  • Appendix C. Crotty's Sentence Stems
  • Appendix D. Menopause Questionnaire


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