What is old age conference: Margaret Rutherford, Haptic Turn

I feel privileged to have attended the interdisciplinary conference ” What is old age? New perspectives from the Humanities” organised by the University of Warwick on February 23rd. 2013 ;  Two keynotes addresses and 8 panels.  The only frustration was  the impossibility to hear all  22 presentations as some panels were organised in parallel.

I learnt of lot about the current diverse and fascinating research fields on ageing and noticed how things have changed since I started being interested in the study of old age.  On this blog I will confine myself to two presentations about film.

Claire Mortimer showed us with the help of  wonderful film footage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv34UJPcJoo) how Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple challenges the image of the little old lady.  Comedy as a genre frees us from conventional stereotypes. Rutherford’s Miss Marple is not Agatha Christie’s frail understated, modest, spinster. She is big, outspoken and active, ‘over the top’. I look forward to learn more about this actor who started her career at the age of 44, became famous and was still appeared as Miss Marple at the age of 72.

There are many impersonations of Miss Marple. It would be  interesting to compare the changes of this character over time.

The other presentation that I found stimulating was Tatjana Schmidt on “Keeping in touch with the aged body : the haptic turn in the representation of aged female bodies in contemporary German cinema.”  The concept of ‘haptic visuality’ is new to me and I found it very difficult to understand fully. But while talking about Cloud 9 with Tatjana I recalled a scene in the film that could illustrate this side of the viewing experience.

That evening while I was watching the French thriller The Spiral on TV I had an insight  into this interesting concept.  There was  a rather gory close-up of part of the skin of a burnt body. Visually this close-up in a long take did not mean anything and could be an abstract painting, but it is the transformation of this visual input into something else that made an impact on me. (I must say here that I have worked in hospitals and that I do not  think that I am squeamish.)

I need to do so much more reading and viewing and re viewing.

About rinaross

Born in 1935. MA in Film and Television Studies at the University of Westminster 1998. Studying the representation of older women in film since then.
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2 Responses to What is old age conference: Margaret Rutherford, Haptic Turn

  1. Pam L says:

    interesting – thanks love Pam

  2. Elizabeth O'Dell says:

    Might the term ‘haptic’ be most helpful to describe how we think about/feel about ageing skin?
    I remember being fascinated by my beloved grandmother’s wrinkly face, and how patient she
    was with my wanting to touch/feel it. I’m ambivalent about my own changing appearance, but
    am at the point where I am who I am, and try not to let my body get in the way of being interested
    and involved in the world about me. I hope this makes sense! Many thanks for the way you
    continue to make me think about/review my daily experiences. I’m having foot surgery at
    the end of this week, so will have more time (and perhaps less patience) to reflect on
    my current circumstances.
    Keep in touch!
    Elizabeth

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