Literature and ageing

Authored by: Sarah Falcus

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033


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Stories of age do not provide answers to questions about ageing. They do not illustrate gerontological concepts. They can offer comfort, inspiration and possibility. They may not offer any of those things. Telling and reading stories of age does open up debate and embrace complexity, and may challenge our ways of thinking. From the trauma of Shakespeare’s bereft King Lear to the eccentricity of Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham (Great Expectations 1860) and the ribald effrontery of Angela Carter’s Nora and Dora (Wise Children 1991), ageing—across the life course—is part of our literary heritage and, according to some, becoming more prominent in texts from current writers (Oró-Piqueras 2013). Others argue that demographic change is, in part, responsible for a ‘new coming of age of literature’ (Ramos 2010: 14). There is not space in this short piece to map fully the way that literature deals with ageing. Instead, the chapter concentrates on a specific aspect of the literary treatment of age: how critics have addressed ageing and literature, or, to put it another way, how age has emerged as a critical perspective from which to view literature.

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