Narrative Development Later in Life

A Novel Perspective


  • William L. Randall St. Thomas University
  • Khurram N. Khurshid



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.

Author Biographies

William L. Randall, St. Thomas University

is Professor of Gerontology at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. With others, he has helped to develop a unique perspective on aging known as “narrative gerontology.” He is author or coauthor of numerous publications on the subject, including the book Reading Our Lives: The Poetics of Growing Old (Oxford 2008), which he wrote with Elizabeth McKim. With McKim, he is also coeditor of the journal Narrative Works: Issues, Investigations, Interventions.

Khurram N. Khurshid

holds a Ph.D. from the University of New Brunswick and has taught English at universities in Pakistan, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. His research interests include postcolonial literature, South Asian fiction, partition narratives, and literary translation. He also taught law in Pakistan, and has held various editing positions in Pakistan and Canada.


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How to Cite

Randall, W. L., and K. N. Khurshid. “Narrative Development Later in Life: A Novel Perspective”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 3, Jan. 2018, pp. 125-61, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v3i.130158.