Literature and Ageing


  • Chris Gilleard University College London 
  • Elizabeth Barry University ofWarwick 
  • Margery Vibe Skagen University of Bergen



In the category “Review Response,” Age, Culture, Humanities features diverse, sometimes conflicting, views within age studies and assessments of the research carried out in the field. This article takes Elizabeth Barry’s and Margery Vibe Skagen’s 2020 anthology Literature and Ageing as a case in point to raise questions about some of the central tenets and approaches in the study of literature and aging. Most importantly, as the title suggests, the edited collection promises a clearer understanding of the relation between literature and ageing.

In the first section, Chris Gilleard offers his thoughts on the anthology and its essays. He raises a number of critical questions that, so we (in our capacity as co- editors of Age, Culture, Humanities) felt, address issues that are not only relevant to the anthology but are of larger importance to the field of age studies: What can literary studies – with its different methods and theories – add to the study of age and aging?

In order to enable a generative conversation about these questions, we invited the editors Barry and Skagen to write a response to Gilleard’s critique. It constitutes the second section of this article and, rather than defend their work, Barry and Skagen clarify what is, in their view, the role of literature in age studies.


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Falcus, Sarah. “Literature and Ageing.” Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology, edited by Julia Twigg and Wendy Martin. Routledge, 2015, pp. 53-60.

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Falcus, Sarah and Katsura Sako. Contemporary Narratives of Dementia: Ethics, Ageing, Politics, Routledge, 2019.

Chris Gilleard and Paul Higgs. Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment, Anthem Press, 2013. Chris Gilleard, “Suffering: The Darker Side of Ageing.” Journal of Aging Studies, vol. 44, March 2018.

Luchetti, Martina, Ji Hyun Lee, Damaris Aschwanden, Amanda Sesker, Jason E. Strickhouser, Antonio Terracciano, and Angelina Sutin. “The Trajectory of Loneliness in Response to COVID-19.” American Psychologist, vol. 75, no. 7, 2020, pp. 897-908.

Ost-Mor, Sharon, Yuval Palgi, and Dikla Segel-Karpas. “Exploring Gaps in Positive Solitude Perceptions: Older Adults vs. Gerontology Professionals.” International Psychogeriatrics, Online publication, 2020.

Stene-Johansen, Knut. “Gerontologiske gleder.” Norsk litteraturvitenskapelig tidsskrift, vol. 1, 2021, _red_literature_a. Accessed 7 Sep. 2021.

Vahia, Ipsit, Dilip Jeste and Charles Reynolds. “Older Adults and the Mental Health Effects of COVID-19.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 20 Nov. 2020, Accessed 7 Sep. 2021.




How to Cite

Gilleard, C., E. Barry, and M. V. Skagen. “Literature and Ageing”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 5, Jan. 2021, pp. 1-15, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v5i.130548.