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“All My Songs Are In The Past”:
Older Women Look Back on Romantic Love: Nostalgia, Imagination, and Idealization

By Lauren Taylor, 2008
Found in the Academic Commons

When I first conceptualized this thesis, it was narrower in scope. I had originally planned to focus only on older women’s nostalgia for early romantic love—a topic that grew out of a recurrent theme in both my clinical work with older women and in my work as an oral historian. It is a theme that is at the core of my own story as well. But as I began interviewing and analyzing the women’s narratives, I realized that this nostalgia was not a singular phenomenon but was, rather, deeply rooted in the women’s internalization of received messages about what it means to be female—messages transmitted on both the familial and societal level. Many of the women lived, often out of necessity, what might from the outside look to be feminist lives; yet almost none would describe themselves as feminists. This phenomenon piqued my curiosity, and I began addressing it in the interviews. Additionally, as I explored the literature on nostalgia, I understood its complexity within the framework of imagination and idealization.

All My Songs Are In the Past_Lauren TaylorLauren Taylor, M.A., M.S., L.C.S.W., oral historian and psychiatric social worker, is an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work. Ms. Taylor has been on staff since 1994 at the Service Program for Older People (SPOP), a mental health clinic for older adults. Ms. Taylor has also served as a field advisor and field instructor for Columbia University social work students interning in a range of aging agencies.

Ms. Taylor gives seminars and workshops on a wide variety of mental health issues related to the aging process. In 2002, in conjunction with CUSSW, she made an educational film about sexuality and aging, funded by the Hartford Foundation and distributed by the New York Academy of Medicine. In 2005 Ms. Taylor created a second teaching film, in which she brought together young social work students and older women for a dialogue about the challenges facing women across the life span.

As an oral historian, Ms. Taylor has conducted dozens of life history interviews with older adults, both in the United States and abroad, and is studying the subjective experience of aging through the medium of narrative in a cross-cultural context.

Ms. Taylor has lectured and published on the therapeutic use of oral history and life review for an aging population, and on the integration of oral history and social work education, both in the US, in France, and in Canada. Her recent interview with a survivor of the Italian fascist labor camps has been included in the online archives of the Italian oral history project I campi fascisti.

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