Awakening the Goddess Within: An Autoethnographic and Poetic Inquiry into Older Women's Ageing and Identity in Ireland

Coyle, Caroline (2023) Awakening the Goddess Within: An Autoethnographic and Poetic Inquiry into Older Women's Ageing and Identity in Ireland. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/NN43R6T4

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Older women’s lack of representation in the mediated culture of the western world has led to the social construction of the older woman as valueless in society. Normalising older women as invisible and worthless in this neoliberal hegemonic culture subsequently stories them, socio-culturally, as other in that society. This study explores how older women in contemporary Ireland feel about their identity; and its timing is hugely significant. The rapidly changing nature of Irish society has evoked a polemic opportunity for a cataclysmic religious and cultural shift. Disillusionment with the Catholic Church, specifically its indoctrination and oppressive practices towards women, has led to resurgence, particularly amongst older women, in embracing the egalitarian ethos of the indigenous Celtic spirituality. Framed in an intersectional third wave feminist approach, underpinned by autoethnography, and utilising poetic inquiry as a conduit to the unconscious; the design of this study was conceptualised over the course of several years, emerging from the process, product, and legacies of poetry workshops I facilitated with women of the third and fourth age in the community of Athlone, a midlands town in Ireland. Concurrently I became fifty and began to explore my own identity as an ageing woman through poetry, art-based mediums, and performances. The study focused on three objectives: 1. Ageing: To explore older women’s lived experiences of ageing in Ireland. 2. Identity: To examine how they felt about their identity as older women. 3. Ritual: To investigate older women’s participation in rituals The context of this study is a year-long journey through the rituals of the Celtic Festivals, at Uisneach, the sacred and mythological centre of Ireland. Within this liminal landscape, twenty-one women, including myself who are representative of third agers (50 to 65), reflected on our lived experiences as ageing women and how we view our sense of identity, by journaling our feelings and reflections through our poetry and our co-constructed collaborative poetry. A Heptagonal Methodological Model gathered the data through autoethnography; poetic inquiry; field notes; reflective journal; participant observation; narrative inquiry interviews; and the production of various art-based research artefacts. Findings indicated that by Triskelic journeying through Geogendered landscape, a space was created, within which, a Communitas of Sisterhood organically formed. We, as older women, individually and collectively, negotiated and renegotiated our ageing and identity to access, embody, and perform our authentic identity. Consequently, through creative collaborative poetry and production of artefacts; our journey led to our reclamation of empowerment, authenticity, confidence and belonging. This Triskelic model offers a potential transferable framework for researchers, practitioners, policymakers, academics, and students to explore various dimensions of ageing and identity, and other social issues.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Older women; Ageing; Identity; Autoethnography; Feminist Intersectionality; Poetic Inquiry; Ritual
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2023 09:30
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2023 12:24

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