Narrative Development Later in Life
A Novel Perspective
Prevailing paradigms in gerontology tend to eclipse the creative side of aging, implicitly perceiving it in terms of a narrative of decline. Building on insights from the field of narrative gerontology, this paper proposes an explicitlyliterary metaphor for understanding the subjective experience of aging, one in which our lives themselves are conceived in textual terms: As novels we are continually composing––as author, narrator, protagonist, and reader more or less at once. Drawing on literary theorist Mikhail Bahktin, the paper argues the merits of the metaphor of life-as-novel, notes the entailments it carries with it, and enlists it to deepen our understanding of narrative development in later life, with special emphasis on the challenges such development can face. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of a “novel perspective” for the practice of narrative care with older adults and for future research into the poetics of growing old.
Abrams, Meyer Howard. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Boston: Heinle and Heinle, 1999.
Aftel, Mandi. The Story of Your Life: Becoming the Author of Your Experience. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Albright, Daniel. “Literary and Psychological Models of the Self.” The Remembering Self: Construction and Accuracy in the Self-Narrative. Eds. Ulrich Neisser and Robyn Fivush. New York: Cambridge UP, 1994. 19-40
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969.
Baena, Rosalia. ed. “Narrative Emotions and the Shaping(s) of Identity.” Narrative Works: Issues, Investigations, Interventions Special Issue 4.2. (2014): 1-7.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. “Epic and the Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel.” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1982. 3-40.
Baldwin, Clive, and Jennifer Estey. “The Self and Spirituality: Overcoming Narrative Loss in Aging.” Journal of Aging and Spirituality in Social Work 34.2 (2015): 205-22.
Baldwin, Clive. “The Narrative Dispossession of People Living with Dementia: Thinking About the Theory and Method of Narrative.” Narrative, Memory, and Knowledge: Representations, Aesthetics, and Contexts. Eds. Kate Milnes et al. Huddersfield: U of Huddersfield P, 2006. 101-09.
Bamberg, Michael. “Stories: Big or Small—Why Do We Care?” Narrative Inquiry 16 (2006): 139-47.
Bateson, Catherine. Composing a Life. New York: Plume, 1990.
Berman, Harry. Interpreting the Aging Self: Personal Journals of Later Life. New York: Springer, 1994.
Bickle, John. “Empirical Evidence for a Narrative Concept of Self.” Narrative and Consciousness: Literature, Psychology, and the Brain. Eds. Gary Fireman, Ted McVay, and Owen Flanagan. New York: Oxford UP, 195-208.
Birren, James, and Vern Bengston, eds. Emergent Theories of Aging. New York: Springer, 1988.
Birren, James, and Donna Deutchman. Guiding Autobiography Groups for Older Adults: Exploring the Fabric of Life. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1991.
Birren, James, et al., eds. Aging and Biography: Explorations in Adult Development. New York: Springer, 1995.
Bluck, Susan, and Tilmann Habermas. “The Life Story Schema.” Motivation and Emotion 24.2 (2000): 121-47.
Bohlmeijer, Ernst, et al. “The Effects of Integrative Reminiscence on Depressive Symptomatology and Mastery of Older Adults.” Journal of Community Mental Health 45 (2009): 467-84.
Bohlmeijer, Ernst, et al. “Creative Reminiscence as an Early Intervention for Depression.” Aging and Mental Health 9.4 (2005): 302-04.
Bohlmeijer, Ernst, and Gerbon Westerhof. “Reminiscence Interventions: Bringing Narrative Gerontology into Practice.” Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions in Narrative Gerontology. Eds. Gary Kenyon, Ernst Bohlmeijer, and William Randall. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 273-89.
Bohlmeijer, Ernst, Gerbern Westerhof, and Susan Lamers. “The Development and Vali- dation of the Narrative Foreclosure Scale.” Aging and Mental Health 18.7 (2014): 879-88.
---. “Narrative Foreclosure: Preliminary Considerations Toward a New Sensitizing Concept.” Journal of Aging Studies 25.4 (2011): 364-70.
Bruner, Jerome. “Life as Narrative.” Social Research 71.3 (2004): 691-711. Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Cappeliez, Philippe, and Jeffrey Webster. “Mnëmë and Amanësis: The Contribution of Involuntary Reminiscences to the Construction of a Narrative Self in Older Age.” Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions in Narrative Gerontology. Eds. Gary Kenyon, Ernst Bohlmeijer, and William Randall. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. 177-94.
Carr, David. Time, Narrative, and History. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986.
Chandler, Sally, and Ruth Ray. “New Meanings for Old Tales: A Discourse-based Study of Reminiscence and Development in Later Life.” Critical Advances in Reminiscence Work: From Theory to Application. Eds. Jeffrey Webster and Barbara Haight. New York: Springer, 2002. 76-94.
Charmé, Stuart. Meaning and Myth in the Study of Lives: A Sartrean Perspective. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1984.
Cohen, Gene. The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of Aging Brain. Boston: Basic, 2005. Cohen, Gene. “Research on Creativity and Aging: The Positive Impact of the Arts on Health and Illness. Generations 30.1 (2006): 7-15.
Cole, Thomas. The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America. New York: Cambridge UP, 1992.
Coleman, Peter. “Creating a Life Story: The Task of Reconciliation.” The Gerontologist 39.2 (1999): 133-39.
Connor, Kathryn, and Jonathan Davidson. “Development of a New Resilience Scale: The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC).” Depression and Anxiety 18 (2003): 71-82. Crites, Stephen. “The Narrative Quality of Experience.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 39.3 (1971): 291-311.
Denzin, Norman. Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographic Practices for the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1997.
Eakin, Paul John. How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1999. Freeman, Mark. Rewriting the Self: History, Memory, Narrative. London: Routledge, 1993.
---. “Death, Narrative Integrity, and the Radical Challenge of Self-understanding. A Reading of Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilych.” Ageing and Society 17 (1997): 373-98.
---. “When the Story’s Over: Narrative Foreclosure and the Possibility of Self-renewal.” Lines of Narrative: Psychosocial Perspectives. Eds. Molly Andrews, et al. London: Routledge, 2000. 81-91.
---. “Life and Literature: Continuities and Discontinuities.” Interchange 38.3 (2007): 223-43.
---. “Toward Poetic Science.” Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 45.4 (2011): 389-96. ---. Hindsight: The Peril and Promise of Looking Backward. New York: Oxford UP, 2010.
Fulford, Robert. The Triumph of Narrative: Storytelling in an Age of Mass Culture. Toronto: Anansi, 1999.
Genette, Gerard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. New York: Cornell UP, 1972.
Glover, Jonathan. I: The Philosophy and Psychology of Personal Identity. London: Penguin, 1988.
Gold, Joseph. The Story Species: Our Life-Literature Connection. Toronto: Fitzhenry- Whiteside, 2002.
Gubrium, Jaber. “What is a Good Story?: Help for Caregivers of People with Dementia.” Generations 27.3 (2003): 21-24.
Gullette, Margaret. Aged by Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004. Habermas, Tilmann. “Autobiographical Reasoning: Arguing and Narrating from a Biographical Perspective.” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development 131 (2010): 1-17.
Hampl, Patricia. I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory. New York: Norton, 1999.
Hanna, Gay, Linda Noelker, and Beth Bienvenu. “The Arts, Health, and Aging in America: 2005-2015.” The Gerontologist 55.2 (2015): 271-77.
Hedelund, Morten, and Andreas Nikolajsen. Fortœǣl for Livet: Artikulering, efterprøvning og reartikulering af an poststrukturalistisk og narrative praksis ift Livsforǣllinger med aeldre. (Trans. Tell Stories for Life: Articulation and Verification of a Poststructuralist and Narrative Praxis Concerning Storytelling with Old People.) Unpub. Masters Thesis: University of Copenhagen. 2013.
Herman, David. “Storyworld.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. London: Routledge, 2008. 569.
Hermans, Hubert. “The Dialogical Self as a Society of Mind: An Introduction.” Theory and Psychology 12.2 (2002): 147-60.
Hooker, Karen, and Dan McAdams. “Personality Reconsidered: A New Agenda for Aging Research.” Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences 58-B.6 (2003): 296-304. Hydén, Lars-Christer. New York: Oxford UP.
Hyvärinen, Matti, et al., eds. Beyond Narrative Coherence. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2010. Kenyon, Gary, Ernst Bohlmeijer, and William Randall, eds. Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions in Narrative Gerontology. New York: Oxford UP, 2011.
Kenyon, Gary, Philip Clark, and Brian deVries, eds. Narrative Gerontology: Theory, Research, and Practice. New York: Springer, 2001.
Kenyon, Gary, and William Randall. Restorying Our Lives: Personal Growth through Autobiographical Reflection. Westport: Praeger, 1997.
---. Introduction, “Practicing Narrative Care.” Journal of Aging Studies 34 Special Issue on Narrative Care (2015): 143-45.
Kermode, Frank. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. New York: Oxford UP, 1966.
Kermode, Frank. “Secrets and Narrative Sequence.” On Narrative. Ed. William John Thomas Mitchell. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981. 79-98.
Kivnick, Helen. “Dancing Vital Involvement: A Creative Old Age.” Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts 4 (2010): 421-30.
Kropf, Nancy, and Cindy Tandy. “Narrative Therapy with Older Clients: The Use of a ‘Meaning Making’ Approach.” Clinical Gerontologist 18.4 (1998): 3-16.
Kunz, John, and Florence Soltys, eds., Transformational Reminiscence: Life Story Work. New York: Springer, 2007.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980.
Lesser, Wendy. Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
Lodge, David. “The Novel Now: Theories and Practices.” Novel 21.2-3 (1988): 125-38. Mancing, Howard. “The Novel.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Eds. David
Herman, Manfred Jahn, and Marie-Laure Ryan. London: Routledge, 2005. 398-404. May, Rollo. The Cry for Myth. New York: Norton, 1999.
McAdams, Dan. The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self. New York: William Morrow, 1993.
---. “Narrating the Self in Adulthood.” Aging and Biography: Explorations in Adult Development. Eds. J. Birren, et al. New York: Springer, 1996. 131-48.
---. The Person: An Integrated Introduction to Personality Psychology. New York: Harcourt, 2001. McKendy, John. “‘I’m Very Careful about That’: Narrative Agency of Men in Prison.” Discourse and Society 17.4 (2006): 473-502.
McKim, Elizabeth, and William Randall. “From Psychology to Poetics: Aging as a Literary Process.” Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts 1 (2007): 147-58. de Medeiros, Kate. Narrative Gerontology in Research and Practice. New York: Springer, 2013.
---. “‘Shadow Stories’ in Oral Interviews: Narrative Care through Careful Listening.” Journal of Aging Studies 34 (2015): 162-68.
Missinne, Leo. “The Search for Meaning of Life in Older Age.” Ageing, Spirituality and Well-being. Ed. Albert Jewel. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2003. 113-23.
Morson, Gary. Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994. Myerhoff, Barbara. Remembered Lives: The Work of Ritual, Storytelling, and Growing Older. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1992.
Oatley, Keith. “Why Fiction May Be Twice as True as Fact: Fiction as Cognitive and Emotional Simulation.” Review of General Psychology 3 (1999): 101-17.
Osis, Maureen, and Loree Stout. “Using Narrative Therapy with Older Clients.” Narrative Gerontology: Theory, Research, and Practice. Eds. Gary Kenyon, Phillip Clark, and Brian de Vries. New York: Springer, 2001. 273-90.
Pals, Jennifer. “Narrative Identity Processing of Difficult Life Experiences: Pathways of Personality Development and Positive Self-transformation in Adulthood.” Journal of Personality 74.4 (2006): 1079-1109.
Pennebaker James, and Janel Seagal. “Forming a Story: The Health Benefits of Narrative.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 55.10 (1999): 1243-54.
Pohlman, Betsy. “Storytelling Circles: Stories of Age and Aging.” Generations 27.3 (2003): 44-48.
Polkinghorne, Donald. Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. Albany: State UP of New York, 1988.
Polster, Erving. Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel. New York: Norton, 1987. Prado, Carlos. Rethinking How We Age: A New View of the Aging Mind. Westport: Greenwood, 1988.
Randall, William. “Narrative Intelligence and the Novelty of Our Lives.” Journal of Aging Studies 13.1 (1999): 11-28.
---. “Storywork: Autobiographical Learning in Later Life.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 126 (2010): 25-36.
---. “The Narrative Psychology of Aging: In Praise of Memory’s Sins. Theory and Psychology 20.2 (2010): 1-23.
---. “The Importance of Being Ironic: Narrative Openness and Personal Resilience in Later Life.” The Gerontologist 53.1 (2013): 9-16.
---. The Stories We Are: An Essay on Self-creation. 2nd ed. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2014. Randall, William, et al. “Narrative and Resilience: A Comparative Analysis of How Older Adults Story Their Lives.” Journal of Aging Studies 34 (2015): 155-61.
Randall, William, and Gary Kenyon. Ordinary Wisdom: Biographical Aging and the Journey of Life. Westport: Praeger, 2001.
Randall, William, and Elizabeth McKim. Reading Our Lives: The Poetics of Growing Old. New York: Oxford UP, 2008.
Randall, William, Suzanne Prior, and Marianne Skarborn. “How Listeners Shape What Tellers Tell: Patterns of Interaction in Lifestory Interviews and their Impact on Reminiscence with Elderly Interviewees.” Journal of Aging Studies 20 (2006): 381-96.
Ray, Ruth. Beyond Nostalgia: Aging and Life-story Writing. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2000.
Rigney, Daniel. The Metaphorical Society: An Invitation to Social Theory. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.
Rubin, David. Introduction. Remembering Our Past: Studies in Autobiographical Memory. Ed. David Rubin. New York: Cambridge UP, 1995. 1-15.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Life/Situations: Essays Written and Spoken. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman, and Ronald Miller. From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older. New York: Warner, 1995.
Schiff, Brian, Elizabeth McKim, and Sylvie Patron, eds. Life and Narrative: The Risks and Responsibilities of Storying Experience. New York: Oxford UP, 2017.
Sherman, Edmund. Reminiscence and the Self in Old Age. New York: Springer, 1991.
Singer, Jefferson. “The Story of Your Life: A Process Perspective on Narrative and Emotion in Adult Development.” Handbook of Emotion, Adult Development, and Aging. Eds. Carol Magai and Susan McFadden. San Diego: Academic P, 1996. 443-63.
Singer, Jefferson, and Pavel Blagov. “The Integrative Function of Narrative Processing: Autobiographical Memory, Self-defining Memories, and the Life Story of Identity.” The Self and Memory. Eds. Denise Beike, James Lampinen, and Douglas Behrend. New York: Psychology Press, 2004. 117-38.
Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010. Spector-Mersel, Gabriella. “Life Story Reflection in Social Work Education: A Practical Model.” Journal of Social Work Education (2016). Web. 8 Oct. 2016.
Staudinger, Ursula, Michael Marsiske, and Paul Baltes. “Resilience and Reserve Capacity in Later Adulthood: Potentials and Limits of Development across the Life Span.” Developmental Psychopathology: Risk, Disorder, and Adaptation. Vol. 2. Eds. Dante Cicchetti and Donald Cohen. New York: John Wiley, 1995. 801-47.
Steunenberg, Bas, and Ernst Bohlmeijer. “Life Review Using Autobiographical Retrieval: A Protocol for Training Depressed Residential Home Inhabitants in Recalling Specific Personal Memories.” Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions. Eds. Gary Kenyon, Ernst Bohlmeijer, and William Randall. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 290-306.
Turner, Mark. The Literary Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.
Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding. London: Penguin, 1957.
Waxman, Barbara. To Live in the Center of the Moment: Literary Autobiographies of Aging. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1997.
White, Michael, and David Epston. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: Norton, 1990.
Wink, Paul, and Brian Schiff. “To Review or not to Review? The Role of Personality and Life Events in Life Review and Adaptation to Older Age.” Critical Advances in Reminiscence: From Theory to Application. Eds. Jeffrey Webster and Barbara Haight. New York: Springer, 2002. 44-60.
Wingard, Barb, and Jane Lester. Telling Our Stories in Ways That Make Us Stronger. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications, 2001.
Wong, Paul. “The Processes of Adaptive Reminiscence.” The Art and Science of Reminiscing: Theory, Research, Methods, and Applications. Eds. Barbara Haight and Jeffrey Webster. Washington: Taylor and Francis, 1995. 23-35.
Wyatt-Brown, Anne. “The Future of Literary Gerontology.” Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. 2nd ed. Eds. Thomas Cole, Robert Kastenbaum, and Ruth Ray. New York: Springer, 2000. 41-61
Zeilig, Hannah. “The Critical Use of Narrative and Literature in Gerontology.” International Journal of Aging and Later Life 6.2 (2011): 7-37.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2018 William L. Randall, Khurram N. Khurshid
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
From issue 6 (2022) onward, the journal uses the CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 license. The authors retain their copyright. For articles published in previous issues (1,2,3,4 and 5) the authors retain their copyright to their articles. Readers can download, read, and link to the articles published in issues 1-5, but they cannot republish these articles. Authors can upload them in their institutional repositories.