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By Kay Heath

Getting older through the publication deals an cutting edge examine the ways that heart age, which for hundreds of years have been thought of the major of lifestyles, used to be reworked through the Victorian period right into a interval of decline. unmarried ladies have been nearing center age at thirty, and moms of their forties have been anticipated to develop into sexless; in the meantime, fortyish males anguished over even if their “time for romance had long gone by.” recognized novels of the interval, in addition to ads, cartoons, and scientific and suggestion manuals, Kay Heath uncovers how this ideology of decline permeated a altering tradition. getting older through the publication unmasks and confronts midlife anxiousness by way of reading its origins, demonstrating that our present damaging angle towards midlife springs from Victorian roots, and arguing that basically after we comprehend the culturally built nature of age will we divulge its ubiquitous and stealthy effect.

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Additional resources for Aging by the Book: The Emergence of Midlife in Victorian Britain

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Degeneration theory was widely accepted by late-Victorians, beliefs that projected an accreting anxiety onto the aging male body. Victorian gender ideology also placed new burdens on aging masculinity by opposing and hierarchizing male and female. Manhood was defined in opposition to “a powerful sense of the feminine ‘other’ ” and grounded in an increasing emphasis on sexual difference that developed during the first half of the nineteenth century (Tosh 91). Tosh argues that the concept of “manliness” resulted from what Thomas Laqueur has termed the “twosex model,” the idea that the genders are opposite, in contrast to earlier beliefs that the female was a weaker, inverted form of the male (Tosh 91; Laqueur 149–50).

IV. Tamara K. Hareven delineates three phases that new life stages go through as they are “discovered”: in the beginning, “individuals become aware of the specific characteristics of a given stage of life as a distinct condition among certain social class or groups,” a concept that next is “publicized in the popular culture” and taken up in professional discourse. Finally, the emerging life stage is “institutionalized” and becomes the subject of policies and legislation specific to the needs of the new group (121).

When Bertha Mason’s existence is revealed, Rochester relates an even earlier episode from his sexual past that allows him to display both his youthful libido and subsequently improved skills. In this story, he is a young “No Longer the Man He Was” 39 man ruined by naïveté, unable to recognize that his father and brother use him as a pawn, and he is neither a fully responsible adult nor an adept lover: “. . I was sent out to Jamaica, to espouse a bride already courted for me” (309). In frankly sexual terms, he divulges that Bertha’s beauty aroused his callow virility: “I was dazzled, stimulated: my sense were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her” (309).

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