Lawson, Janet Clare (2013) "Matron Lit": a twenty first century voice? Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In this thesis I argue that matron lit gives over-forties women a voice within contemporary popular fictional texts that they have previously been denied. This genre began to emerge around the turn of the twenty-first century as a sub-genre of chick lit and is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream of popular fiction. Contemporary popular fiction aimed at the baby-boom market has established its readership steadily. For the first time older female readers of popular fiction have heroines to whom they can relate. Matron lit discusses the gains and losses that are encountered by ageing women in Western society. Cultural attitudes about ageing and gender operate together to marginalise older women. Matron lit contributes to the debate around ageing and gender by reporting and exposing gendered and ageist discourses.

In order to explore the impact of fictional narratives that represent the lives of older women, I draw on the work of Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. These theorists provide a frame of reference that assist an understanding of the constructive discourse which promotes normative cultural concepts of ageing and gender. In reporting on gendered ageist discourses matron lit exposes the repetitive linguistic process that undermines mature, female identities. While matron lit sometimes simply recites ageist discourses, it occasionally challenges them directly and frequently subverts them through irony.

The particular issues which I explore over five chapters are:

The importance of body image and sexuality, in the lives of matron lit heroines.

The effect of ageist attitudes on wellbeing.

The significance of home for matron lit heroines.

The relevance of relationships and friendships to mature women.

The pursuit of ‘liminal’ space where post-reproductive women can re-evaluate their purpose.

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