The Aesthetics of Senescence
Aging, Population, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel
Recent years have seen the rise of alarming yet familiar headlines featuring apocalyptic visions of an imminent “grey tsunami” of aging retirees, whose sheer numbers place outsized demands on our societal resources. How has chronological age come to possess such far-reaching ideological, ethical, and aesthetic implications? In The Aesthetics of Senescence: Aging, Population, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel, Andrea Charise shows how authors of this period, influenced by Thomas Malthus’s population thinking and medical discourses, engaged with an unprecedented—and, as in our present day, hotly politicized—climate of crisis associated with growing old.
Charting the traffic between fictional, medical, and scientific discourses around older age in nineteenth-century Britain, Charise’s study is compulsory reading for everyone from demographers to historians, sociologists to gender scholars, and health practitioners to scholars of nineteenth-century literature.