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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

Introduction

Summary

The book begins by outlining the representational problem of aging. Across the realist novel, the duration of aging falls out of the attempt to represent it, greatly accelerating the process of aging or writing the passage of years on the body all at once. By doing so, the novel map bodily development and decline onto the temporalities of nineteenth-century British modernity. Subsequent chapters chart this representational problem through a historical narrative that begins from the New Poor Law in 1834 to the 1860s. The pervasive optimism of these years was made possible, in part, by excluding old age from the plots novelists used to represent era. The second part turns to the growing pessimism at the end of the Victorian period, which arises not from marginalizing old age, but from using it as a figure for an exhausted century. While this has the effect of making old age central to fin-de-siècle narratives, senescence also gains new, negative connotations. Through this argument, Aging, Duration, and the English Novel aims to reorient the field age studies away from the implicit stasis of a term like “age” toward the temporal dynamism of “aging studies.”

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