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Historicizing the ageing self: Literature, medicine, psychology, law
Forthcoming publication

Cultural Histories of Ageing: Myths, Plots and Metaphors of the Senescent Self

Drawing on 16th- to 21st-century American, British, French, German, Polish, Norwegian and Russian literature and philosophy, this collection teases out culturally specific conceptions of old age as well as subjective constructions of late-life identity and selfhood.

Kittelsen
Theodor Kittelsen, Gammel kvinne i profil med sort hette 1876-1879
Photo:
Nasjonalmuseet/Ivarsøy, Dag Andre

Main content

Drawing on 16th- to 21st-century American, British, French, German, Polish, Norwegian and Russian literature and philosophy, this collection teases out culturally specific conceptions of old age as well as subjective constructions of late-life identity and selfhood. The internationally known humanistic gerontologist Jan Baars, the prominent historian of old age David Troyansky, and the distinguished cultural historian and pioneer in the field of literature and science George Rousseau join a team of literary historians who trace out the interfaces between their chosen texts and the respective periods’ medical and gerontological knowledge. The chapters’ in-depth analyses of major and less known works demonstrate the rich potential of fiction, poetry and autobiographical writing in the construction of a cultural history of senescence. These literary examples not only bear witness to longue durée representations of old age, and epochal transitions regarding cultural attitudes to the aged; they also foreground the subjectivities who produced some of these representations and who continue to communicate with readers of other times and places. By casting a net over a variety of authors, genres, periods and languages, the collection gives a broad sense of how literature is among the richest and most engaging sources for historicizing the ageing self.