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The Aesthetics of Senescence
Aging, Population, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel
The Aesthetics of Senescence
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Andrea Charise - Author
SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 240 pages
Release Date: January 2020
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-7745-9

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Investigates how nineteenth-century British literature grappled with a new understanding of aging as both an individual and collective experience.

The Aesthetics of Senescence investigates how chronological age has come to possess far-reaching ideological, ethical, and aesthetic implications, both in the past and present. Andrea Charise argues that authors of the nineteenth century used the imaginative resources of literature to engage with an unprecedented climate of crisis associated with growing old. Marshalling a great variety of canonical authors including William Godwin, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and George Gissing, as well as less familiar writings by George Henry Lewes, Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, Agnes Strickland, and Max Nordau, Charise demonstrates why the imaginative capacity of writing became an interdisciplinary crucible for testing what it meant to grow old at a time of profound cultural upheaval. Charise’s grounding in medicine, political history, literature, and genre offers a fresh, original, thoroughly interdisciplinary analysis of nineteenth-century aging and age theory, as well as new insights into the rise of the novel—a genre usually thought of as affiliated almost entirely with the young or middle-aged.

“…a genius-level contribution to aging studies that, best thing of all, starts with poetry!” — Poetry Magazine

“Charise’s brilliantly argued, clearly written book is an important intervention in nineteenth-century British literature, age studies, and medical humanities. It brings these areas of inquiry together in what seems a seamless way—as if they have always traveled together or ought to have. Through an investigation of what she calls the ‘aesthetics of embodiment that shaped nineteenth-century visions of aging,’ Charise has given us an original and groundbreaking study of literary, historical, anthropological, and philosophical texts.” — Devoney Looser, author of The Making of Jane Austen

At the University of Toronto Scarborough, Andrea Charise is Assistant Professor in both the Department of English and in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health & Society.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Aesthetics of Senescence


1. William Godwin and the Artifice of Immortality

2. “In the condition of an aged person”: Mary Shelley and Frail Romanticism

3. George Eliot’s Aging Bodies

4. “The Century’s corpse”: Reading Senility at the Fin de Sičcle

5. Writing Twenty-First-Century Aging Populations

Works Cited

Related Subjects