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Old Rubbish

Old Rubbish

Chapter:
(p.112) 4 Old Rubbish
Source:
The Hoarders
Author(s):
Scott Herring
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226171852.003.0005

This chapter examines how accounts of pathological hoarding emerged alongside accounts of pathological old age. It explores how cultural depictions of aging recluses fostered stereotypes of the aberrant hoarder. To so do it traces a history of senile squalor syndrome that associates the elderly with the accumulation of rubbish. Using the 1975 documentary film Grey Gardens and it subjects Edith Bouvier Beale and Edie Beale as its main case study, the chapter details how modern fears over late life material culture support depictions of elder hoarding. Surveying the cultural history of geriatrics and gerontology in the United States, the chapter describes how these disciplines advanced apprehension over the belongings of older men and women such as Edith Bouvier Beale. These discourses of the pathological aged and their departures from socially acceptable forms of keepsakes and memorabilia continue to influence popular and scientific accounts of hoarding.

Keywords:   hoarding, mental illness, Grey Gardens, Edith Bouvier Beale, Edie Beale, aging, recluses, squalor, gerontology, geriatrics

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