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Uncanny Subjects

Aging in Contemporary Narrative

Edited by and Introduction by

Publication Year: 2009

In the United States anti-aging is a multibillion-dollar industry, and efforts to combat signs of aging have never been stronger, or more lucrative. Although there are many sociological studies of aging and culture, there are few studies that examine the ways cultural texts construct multiple narratives of aging that intersect and sometimes conflict with existing social theories of aging. In Uncanny Subjects: Aging in Contemporary Narrative, Amelia DeFalco contributes to the ongoing discourse of aging studies by incorporating methodologies and theories derived from the humanities in her investigation into contemporary representations of aging. The movement of aging is the movement of our lives, and this dynamism aligns aging with narrative: both are a function of time, of change, of one event happening after another. Subjects understand their lives through narrative trajectories—through stories—not necessarily as they are living moment to moment, but in reflection, reflection that becomes, many argue, more and more prevalent as one ages. As a result, narrative fiction provides compelling representations of the strange—indeed uncanny—familiarity of the aging self. In Uncanny Subjects, DeFalco explores a thematic similitude in a range of contemporary fiction and film by authors and directors such as John Banville, John Cassavetes, and Alice Munro. As their texts suggest, proceeding into old age involves a growing awareness of the otherness within, an awareness that reveals identity as multiple, shifting, and contradictory—in short, uncanny. Drawing together theories of the uncanny with research on aging and temporality, DeFalco argues that aging is a category of difference integral to a contemporary understanding of identity and alterity.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Studies in Comics and Cartoons

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-v

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

In the su mmer of 2005 I had dinner with my grandparents at a restaurant near their home in Utica, New York. The restaurant was chosen because it was my grandmother’s favorite, or more precisely, it was the only place outside her home where she would willingly eat a meal. Our...

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Prefatory Note: Defining Age

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pp. xvii

My focus in Uncanny Subjects is primarily the condition of “old” age, or more precisely, the experience of aging into old age. Of course “old” is a highly relative term, largely dependent on perspective—hence the common preference for the more transparently comparative term...

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pp. xix-xx

First, I am grateful to Linda Hutcheon, whose encouragement and support have made this book possible. From our earliest conversations on the subject, she propelled me forward, inspiring and provoking my research with her astute insights. I was fortunate to a have a number of...

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Introduction: Uncanny Subjects

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pp. 1-19

This study addresses age as an undertheorized sign of difference in the humanities, a difference that contemporary narrative fiction and film can help illuminate. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries are important times for a reconsideration of aging into old age, given what is sometimes...

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1. Backward Glances: Narrative Identity and Lafe-life Review

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pp. 21-52

The notion that human subjects are constituted by narrative has become something of a theoretical truism. As Kathleen Woodward puts it, “To have a life means to possess its narrative” (Discontents 83, original emphasis). The belief in narrative as what Frederic Jameson calls “the...

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2. Troubling Versions: Dementia and Identity

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pp. 53-94

In his personal essay documenting his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, Jonathan Franzen explains the necessity of his narrative intervention: “This was his disease. It was also, you could argue, his story. But you have to let me tell it” (How to Be Alone 11). Franzen’s remarks imply...

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3. Aging, Doubles, and the Mania of Dissemblance

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pp. 95-124

Julie Christie s comments articulate a curious yet common phenomenon in which the transformations of aging produce an unnerving double. Crises of recognition are not limited to those over sixty: explaining her use of Botox, forty-five-year-old actress Virginia Madsen has characterized...

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Conclusion: Uncanny Aging, Uncanny Selves

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pp. 125-138

How does one understand, adapt to, interpret, live with the seeming simultaneous sameness and difference that accompanies old age? I raised this question in the introduction to this book. In the chapters that followed I stressed transience and instability, arguing that the continual...

Works Cited

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pp. 139-149


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pp. 151-154

E-ISBN-13: 9780814271230
E-ISBN-10: 0814271235
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211137
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211135

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 4
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Studies in Comics and Cartoons