Putting Age into Place

John Mighton’s Half Life and Joan Barfoot’s Exit Lines


  • Ulla Kriebernegg University of Graz






This paper addresses cultural constructions of old age in two contemporary Canadian care home narratives. While John Mighton’s play Half Life (2005) is set in a prison-like long-term care facility that is represented as a site of homogenization, oppression, and infantilization, Joan Barfoot’s novel Exit Lines (2008) plays in a hotel-like retirement lodge for wealthy customers that, despite its authoritarian manager, functions as a site of meaningful identity development and intragenerational relationships. What both texts have in common, however, is that they focus on residents’ individual resistance, subversion, and agency, thus opposing the ageist stereotype of decline and deconstructing prevailing norms and negative images of old age as merely physical decrepitude and disease. How is the space of the care home narrated in these two contemporary Canadian texts, and what role do aspects of space and place play for the narrative construction of old age? In this paper, I argue that the spatiality of aging is a category that needs to be incorporated into both an analysis of literary representations of the “fourth age” and an exploration of critical issues of space and place. The juxtaposition of two caregiving institutions in recent Canadian fction contributes to revealing how old age is imagined at the beginning of the twenty-frst century.

Author Biography

Ulla Kriebernegg, University of Graz

is Associate Professor at the Center for Inter-American Studies (C.IAS) at the University of Graz, Austria. Her emphasis in research and teaching is on (Inter-)American literary and cultural studies, interculturality, Jewish migrations to the Americas, and Age/Aging Studies. Her current book project, Age into Place: Age, Space, and Identity in Anglophone North American Care Home Narratives, focuses on representations of long-term care institutions in Canadian and US American flm and fiction. She is chair of ENAS (European Network in Aging Studies) and coeditor of the Aging Studies book series. Readers may write to Ulla Krienbernegg at ulla.krienberneg@uni-graz.at.


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How to Cite

Kriebernegg, U. “Putting Age into Place: John Mighton’s Half Life and Joan Barfoot’s Exit Lines”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 2, Jan. 2015, pp. 159-83, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v2i.130742.