The literature of aging is sparse in comparison to that of youth and adulthood: while the Bildungsroman is an old and established genre, there is no such thing as the Alternroman.
There should be, though, as we in the developed world are living longer than ever, and perhaps such a genre may still come about. Meanwhile, it often seems the developing world and our own ancients had more respect for old age than modern, youth-mad culture.
We’ll start with the Roman philosopher Cicero and see what he advises, proceed to a twentieth-century writer-philosopher, Jean Améry, whose experiences of the Nazi era and the Second World War inflected his view of the life span, rope in Hemingway’s classic of the old and tormented fisherman, compare him to Wallace Stegner’s aging academic in The Spectator Bird, then compare that stodgy WASP to the flamboyant 74-year old Caribbean Londoner who narrates Booker-Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman, and engage with some extraordinarily witty and articulate grande dames of recent decades.
Is there a consensus about what it means to get old? Or is aging a highly individual experience? How, specifically, is it gendered? And how does pondering one’s own end intersect with contemplating the end of our world? How has the psychology of aging changed, and how does it remain the same, in the Anthropocene?
Six sessions. $235/$210. Led by Natania Rosenfeld