By Amelia DeFalco
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Extra info for Uncanny Subjects: Aging in Contemporary Narrative
This assertion draws on Paul Ricoeur’s vision of narrative and time as inextricably connected, the two forming, in his terms, a hermeneutic circle in which “time becomes human time to the extent that it is organized after the manner of narrative; narrative, in turn, is meaningful to the extent that it portrays the features of temporal experience” (Time 3: 3). In other words, human temporality makes self-understanding the result of narrative, a causal relationship that becomes increasingly obvious as subjects age.
Like aging studies theorists such as Kaufman, Esposito, and Holland, psychologists Butler and Erikson assume a singularity of identity, a constancy through the life cycle that facilitates comfortable narrative summation in old age. However, as literary and film narratives can make clear in their fabricated “life reviews,” such a process of coherent, enlightening summing up is difficult, if not impossible. The Stone Angel, Shroud, The Stone Diaries, and The Company of Strangers suggest the problems, and even risks, that result from regarding life as a singular teleology readily available for narrative transposition.
Aging’s uncanniness, its “paradoxical development in which we are both more and less than we were before” (Schwartz 7), contributes to theories of core identity, obscured, but not essentially altered, by the changes of age. According to such models, the “kernel sentence” (Schwartz 7), the “ultimate self” (Esposito 138), the “core self” (Hepworth 29) remains reliably stolid amid the movement of time. Wariness toward dynamism is often expressed as a deep skepticism toward seemingly aimless, consumerist postmodernism.