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The Art of Aging

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A humanities journal at Stanford University has published a special issue that focuses on aging and aesthetics.

The editors of the journal, Occasion, have included articles on topics such as portraits of older women artists, stereotypes about older artists’ art, and “Scar Tissue,” Michael Ignatieff’s novel about being a bad caregiver.

Marlene Goldman, an issue editor, says Simone de Beauvoir saw age as being on par with gender, race and class in the “construction of identity.”

One author, Andrea Charise, writes about the shift from the traditional view of the “weight of years” as good thing to a modern approach to writing about aging “marked by an apocalyptic and, at times, gothic sensibility,” Goldman says.

The modern literary approach to aging “directs its anxieties at an increasingly aging population conceived of as a monstrously excessive, fluid mass—’a grey tsunami’—threatening to overwhelm the resources of the nation,” Goldman says.

Charise includes an analysis of The Fixed Period, a novel published by Anthony Trollope in 1882. In the novel, Trollope tells the story of a fictional British colony in which euthanasia is mandatory for residents who reach age 67.5.


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