Rethinking the body-spaces for change : a qualitative analysis of textual and visual representations of menopause.
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The focus of this study is the exploration and interpretation of women's visual and textual experiences of menopause. It is a conversational mapping of embodied space and time as they re-imagine memories and actual experiences which have informed their changing sense of self during the transitional stages of menopause. The research examines the ways in which artwork, visual diaries, journals, creative writing and poetry make visible a fresh perception of their female sense of the lived body. The project examines the contemporary cultural meanings of femininity, sexuality and identity which have informed women's understanding of their bodies and gender during the transformative years of menopause, and it explores the ways in which these forms of knowledge have influenced their artistic modes of self-representation.In the first chapter I acquaint the reader with the context of the research, and outline my understandings of the human body and social theories. I direct the exploration of texts towards a 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 I develop theoretical and methodological arts-based approaches enabling an innovative and appropriate investigation of the phenomenon in question. I explain how I have blended various textual expressive genres with interpretive research methodologies and philosophical viewpoints. In these chapters I recount the imaginative strategies and techniques used to portray the ontological, phenomenological and epistemological perspectives of the lived experience of menopause.Following this, I present seven stories. Each story portrays how artistic genres grasp particular experiences and transform them into imaginative expressive inter-textual representations.The stories also demonstrate how this type of research is done, and how the meaning-making processes of collaborative research draw out resonances towards real and imagined, and internal and external sites of personal and political significance.Accompanying the stories is a fourth chapter entitled Menopause Perspecta X 5. In writing this section, I adopt a different narrational approach and voice as I move from the realm of storyteller 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, each presentation continues the task of opening spaces for translation between word and image.The thesis concludes with a reflective overview of the menopausal body, image and text. In the coda, Notes Towards A Work In Progress, I express my thoughts on creating alternative spatial practices, and tell another story. Through its poetic and lyrical content, I attempt to offer possibilities for restoring a sense of menopausal self, love, hope, and a meaningful relationship with the world.
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