Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


The oral histories of nine aged women provide the vehicle for this feminist poststmctural exploration of life-long learning in its formal, non-formal, informal and incidental modes. As personal nanativas are historically, culturally, socially and personally mediated, it becomes possible to see that the oral histories are at once individual and coUectiva. The women's accounts illustrate that despite discourses providing competing and often contradictory subject positions, it is possible, indeed necessary, to speak as a rational, coherent self. I illustrate how this group of women (re)constmctad what I call 'enabling fictions'.

The poststmctural, multidisciplinary analysis consisted of four levels: the macro, the meso, the micro and the interactional. Through the macro analysis it was possible to locate the narratives in their cultural and historical time and place, revealing collective meanings as they relate to individual experience. The meso analysis drew on the personal level shedding light on individual values, interpretations and positioning. On the micro level, nanatives were examined for the subtleties of the telling, exploring emotions and voice in particular. Finally, the interactional analysis recognised that these nanatives were a product of the relationship between each of the women and myself.

The poststmctural analysis of personal nanatives reveals that what events mean to a woman depends on her ways of interpreting her world from the discourses available to her at that given moment. I do not suggest that these women's accounts illustrate 'the' women's ways of learning, rather I argue that different discourses bring with them different ways of seeing one's self and of speaking as a learner. As a result learning is seen not as a linear progression, but rather as a constant forming and re-forming situated within a particular discursive field. The nine women were able to utilise the discourses sunounding home and family to claim particular maternal competencies which they found to be transportable into their community activities. This group of women Ulustrate how it is possible to (re)constmct a subjectivity in a way that indeed 'makes the best of life'.

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