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Revising Herself: The Story of Women's Identity from College to Midlife
     

Revising Herself: The Story of Women's Identity from College to Midlife

by Ruthellen Josselson
 
In 1972, Josselson was a young pscyhologist fascinated by the riddle of how a woman creates an identity and chooses one path over another in life--particularly in the face of the nascent femininst movement. Selecting at random 30 women in their last year of college, Josselson undertook a groundbreaking story that would follow these women over the next 22 years. What

Overview

In 1972, Josselson was a young pscyhologist fascinated by the riddle of how a woman creates an identity and chooses one path over another in life--particularly in the face of the nascent femininst movement. Selecting at random 30 women in their last year of college, Josselson undertook a groundbreaking story that would follow these women over the next 22 years. What she learned about the ways in which women reinvent themselves is the subject of this myth-shattering book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Josselson (psychology professor at Towson State and a practicing psychotherapist) says in her introduction that she hoped to do in text what Michael Apted did in film with his 35 Up series. In many ways, Josselson outdoes Apted in drawing together the experiences of women. Between 1971 and 1973, she interviewed 30 female college seniors then met with them again in 1983 and in 1993. Josselson's important account of a changing generation benefits from her excellent interview techniques, her insight into the ways women edit their autobiographies and the fortuitous timing by which her study tracked the arc of a burgeoning women's movement. The data yields some interesting observations: that childless women (close to half those in the study did not reproduce) found equal satisfaction in other types of connection, and that "Even into midlife, identity is cast against the background of their mothers." Josselson's main point is that, at different times, women recount their life stories in different ways. Many in later life claimed that college had been an active and life-changing experience, while at the time their interviews made them seem passive and uninvolved. At 33, Andrea believed it was acceptable to have extramarital affairs; at 43, married to a different partner, she recalled that the affairs made her feel guilty. The writing is not always perfectly fluid, and as Josselson herself points out, the sample of 30 is far from heterogeneous (the one black participant died after the first round of interviews, leaving only white women) but the information presented here is invaluable. (Oct.)
Booknews
In an attempt to present a holistic psychological portrait of women, Josselson (psychology, Towson State U.) met and revisited a group of 30 women over the course of 22 years, observing as they developed and reworked their personal identities from their college years into mid life. She explores the "four trajectories" of a woman's life: guardian, pathmaker, searcher, and drifter. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
An academic study of how a group of women coming of age at a time of great social change have shaped their identities.

Finding that Erik Erikson's description of identity formation did not seem to fit her own experience, as a young psychologist Josselson (Towson State Univ.) set out to explore how women accomplish this task. She first studied her subjects, a group of middle-class white women, during 197172, when they were college seniors. Using a framework devised by psychologist James Marcia to study identity development in late adolescents, she divided the young women into four groups according to the pathways they seemed to be taking toward adulthood: Guardians, so named because they are protectors of their heritage, cling to the familiar and accept authority; Pathmakers, who are more independent, carefully choose a goal and work toward it; Searchers, idealistic questioners of both themselves and their world; and Drifters, who live in the present moment, counting on life to just happen. Josselson recontacted the women 12 years later and then again 10 years after that, when they were about 43 years old. Here she examines each group separately and provides psychobiographies of several representative women in each segment. After examining their differences, she turns to their similarities and finds that most, although having begun their adult lives in widely dissimiliar fashion, have by midlife arrived psychologically at similar places. For women, Josselson contends, identity rests on a sense of competence or effectiveness in the world, and on a sense of connection with others. In her final chapters, she considers how these issues play out in women's lives, concluding that the most visible revisions women make as they mature are in how these goals are expressed.

The psychobiographies make for tedious reading, and Josselson's style is too textbookish to have wide appeal, but her ideas should generate discussion among those interested in theories of identity.

From the Publisher
"Anyone, male or female, who has asked the question 'Who am I?' will benefit from Josselson's penetrating insights."—Salem Press

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198028321
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/23/1998
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
596 KB

Meet the Author

Ruthellen Josselson is Professor of Psychology at Towson State University and is a practicing psychotherapist.

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