“To write my autobiography and get myself in focus genetically”
G. Stanley Hall’s Senescence (1922)
In this paper, we analyze G. Stanley Hall’s Senescence: The Last Half of Life (1922) as a personal narrative and scientific account of aging in the long nineteenth century. We approach the text with a critical perspective on the decline narrative in aging studies, but also by engaging with Hall’s narrative in the form of life review. Our analysis is contextualized by a historical perspective on Hall’s academic career, his views on women, and his Social Darwinism. We focus on three main narratives—embodied aging and delaying decline, old age as personal experience and a category for social analysis, and the emergence of retirement as a socioeconomic institution. In doing so, we contextualize Hall’s work by attending to the social and intellectual currents of this time. We observe the enduring influence of narratives of aging in the nineteenth century, particularly the underlying assumption of Senescence—that aging equals decline and loss, which still holds sway in mainstream gerontology research today. We argue that Senescence offers the reader a complex and often meandering narrative which reveals the experience of male aging in the long nineteenth century as well as scientific thinking on aging at the time. We conclude that Hall shows us that old age (and death) are part of life, and that as much can be learned from the experience of living through old age as can be gleaned from academic studies of social statistics or physiological decline.
Achenbaum, W. Andrew. “Looking Backward while Gazing Ahead: An Historian of Aging Reflects on Time’s Borders.” Societies, vol. 7, no. 9, 2017, pp. 1-8.
—. Old Age in the New Land. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen and Cravens, Hamilton, editors. “G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence: A Centennial Reappraisal.” History of Psychology, vol. 9, no. 3, 2006, pp. 165-71.
Barton, William. Observations on the Progress of Population and the Probabilities of Duration of Human Life in the United States of America. Philadelphia, 1791.
Brown, JoAnne. Definition of a Profession: The Authority of Metaphor in the History of Intelligence Testing, 1890-1930. Princeton University Press, 1992.
Bud, Robert and Morag Shiach. “Being Modern: Introduction.” Being Modern: The Cultural Impact of Science in the Early Twentieth Century, edited by Robert Bud, Paul Greenhalgh, Frank James and Morag Shiach, UCL Press, 2018, pp. 1-19.
Butler, Robert. Why Survive? Being Old in America. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.
Carney, Gemma. “Towards a Gender Politics of Aging.” Journal of Women & Aging, vol. 30, no. 3, 2018, pp. 242-58.
Charise, Andrea. The Aesthetics of Senescence: Aging, Population, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel. State University of New York Press, 2020.
—. “The Future is Certain: Manifesting Age, Culture, Humanities.” Age, Culture, Humanities, vol. 1, no. 1, 2014, pp. 11-16. https://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/the-future-is-certain-manifesting-age-culture-humanities/.
Chase, Karen. The Victorians and Old Age. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Chynoweth Burnham, John. “Psychiatry, Psychology and the Progressive Movement.” American Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 3, 1960, pp. 457-65.
Cole, Thomas R. “The Prophecy of Senescence: G. Stanley Hall and the Reconstruction of Old Age in America.” The Gerontologist, vol. 24, no. 4, 1984, pp. 360-66.
Cravens, Hamilton. “History of the Social Sciences.” Osiris, vol. 1, 1985, pp. 183-207.
Cruikshank, J. Life Lived Like a Story: Life Story of Three Yukon Native Elders. University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
Goodchild, Lester. “G. Stanley Hall and an American Social Darwinist Pedagogy: His Progressive Educational Ideas on Gender and Race.” History of Education Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 1, 2012, pp. 62-98.
Gullette, Margaret Morganroth. Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People. Rutgers University Press, 2017.
Hall, G. Stanley. Adolescence: Its Psychology and its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education. 2 vols. Sidney Appleton, 1904.
—. Senescence: The Last Half of Life. D. Appleton and Company, 1924.
Hareven, Tamara. “Changing Images of Aging and the Social Construction of the Life Course.” Images of Aging: Cultural Representations of Later Life, edited by Mike Featherstone and Andrew Wernick, Routledge, 1995, pp. 119-34.
Healy, Róisin. “Suicide in Early Modern and Modern Europe.” The Historical Journal, vol. 49, no. 3, 2006, pp. 903-19.
Hurd Clarke, Laura, and Maya Lefkowich. “‘I don’t really have any issue with masculinity’: Older Canadian Men’s Perceptions and Experiences of Embodied Masculinity.” Journal of Aging Studies, vol. 45, 2018, pp. 18-24.
Katz, Steven. “Critical Gerontology for a New Era.” The Gerontologist, vol. 59, no. 2, 2019, pp. 396-97.
—. “What is Age Studies?” Age, Culture, Humanities, vol. 1, no. 1, 2014, pp. 17-23. https://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/what-is-age-studies/.
Kemp, Hendrika. “G. Stanley Hall and the Clark School of Religious Psychology.” American Psychologist, vol. 47, no. 2, 1992, pp. 290-98.
Kohlman, Michael. “The Sociological Roots of Eugenics: Demographic, Ethnographic and Educational Solutions to the Racial Crises in Progressive America.” One World in Dialogue, vol. 3, no. 2, 2015, pp. 12-27.
Laslett, Peter. A Fresh Map of Life: the Emergence of the Third Age. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.
Lepore, Jill. “Twilight. Getting Old and Even Older.” The New Yorker, 14 March 2011, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/03/14/twilight-jill-lepore . Accessed 19 August 2020.
Lively, Penelope. Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A Life in Time. Fig Tree, 2013.
Macnicol, John. The Politics of Retirement in Britain, 1878-1948. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Morley, John E., “A Brief History of Geriatrics.” Journal of Gerontology, vol. 59A, no. 11, 2004, pp. 1132-52.
Oro-Piqueras, M. and S. Falcus. “Approaches to Old Age: Perspectives from the Twenty-first Century.” European Journal of English Studies, vol. 22, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-12.
Parry, M. “G. Stanley Hall: Psychologist and Early Gerontologist.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 96, no. 7, 2006, pp. 1161.
Quadagno, J. Aging in Early Industrial Society: Work, Family, and Social Policy in Nineteenth-Century England. Academic Press, 1982.
Randall, William. and Khurram Khurshid. “Narrative Development in Later Life: A Novel Perspective.” Age, Culture, Humanities, no. 3, 2016. https://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/narrative-development-in-later-life-a-novel-perspective/.
Ross, D. G. Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet. University of Chicago Press, 1972.
Schofer, Gill. “G. Stanley Hall: Male Chauvinist Educator.” The Journal of Educational Thought, vol. 10, no. 3, 1976, pp. 194-200.
Segal, Lynne. Out of Time: The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing. Verso, 2013.
Sundén, Jenny and Susanna Paasonen. “Shameless Hags and Tolerance Whores: Feminist Resistance and the Affective Circuits of Online Hate.” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 18, no. 4, 2018, pp. 643-56.
Thane, Pat. “‘An Unfailing Zest for Life’: Images and Self-images of Older People in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.” Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues, edited by Pat Thane, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 259-85.
Trollope, Anthony. The Fixed Period, edited by David Skilton. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Twigg, Julia and Wendy Martin. “The Challenge of Cultural Gerontology.” The Gerontologist, vol. 55, no. 3, 2015, pp. 353-59.
Vickery, Amanda. “Golden Age to Separate Spheres? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women’s History.” The Historical Journal, vol. 36, no. 2, 1993, pp. 383-414.
Young, Jacy. “G. Stanley Hall, Child Study, and the American Public.” The Journal of Genetic Psychology, vol. 177, no. 6, 2016, pp. 195-208.
How to Cite
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.