General information

Course type AMUPIE
Module title Old age in British and American culture and literature
Language English
Module lecturer dr Katarzyna Bronk - Bacon
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position PhD
Faculty Faculty of English
Semester 2023/2024 (summer)
Duration 15
USOS code 15-OABA-AMU-PIE-11


Collegium Heliodori Święcicki, Room 152, Monday, 9:45-11:15

(every second week, beginning from 04.03)

Module aim (aims)

The course teaches the students to understand the value of humanist gerontology, especially its cultural and literary branches, for a more holistic approach to human health. It allows the students to understand ageing, historically, as lived and embodied experience, expressed in the words, stories and writings. It teaches to read both the medical and (para)literary texts pertaining to ageing and old age as examples of pedagogy of old age. The course will ultimately show the benefits of gerontological knowledge in intergenerational communicative situations and help to develop ways and means of counteracting various forms of ageism. 

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

The student should have good grasp of English and be interested in interdisciplinary studies in the history, processes and representations of ageing and old age in British and American culture(s). English at B2 level 


Week 1: Introduction to cultural and humanistic gerontology, its origins and history 




Week 2: Introduction to narrative and literary gerontology: 




Week 3: Feminist perspectives: Genderisation of ageing   




Week 4: The history of old age [Part 1]: The Antiquity and the [Christian] Middle Ages 




Week 5: Case study: (St)ages of life and prolongevity: Paraliterary narratives on healthy and moral ageing 




Week 6: The history of old age [Part 2]: The Renaissance 




Week 7: Case study: William Shakespeare’s comic and tragic stereotypes 




Week 8: The history of old age [Part 3]: The Enlightenment and the (narrative) medicalisation of old age 




Week 9: Case study: Utopias and dystopias of ageing and intergenerational contract 




Week 10: The history of old age [Part 4]: The Victorian period 




Week 11: Case study: The fear of old age and growing old in Victorian literature 




Week 12:The history of old age [Part 5]: The modern era 




Week 13: Case study: Laughing at ageing? 




Week 14: Old age and ageing in narratives for children




Week 15: Cinematic representations of ageing into/and old age 

Reading list

Arber, S. and J. Ginn, eds. (1995). Connecting Gender and Ageing: A Sociological Approach. Buckingham: Open University Press. 

Basting, A. (1998). The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 

Botelho, L. A., and S. R. Ottaway (2016). The History of Old Age in England 1600–1800, Vol. 1-8. London: Routledge. 

Botelho, L. and P. Thane, eds. (2001). Women and Ageing in British Society since 1500. London: Longman. 

Cole, T. R. (1992). The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America. New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Cole, T. R. and S. Gadow, eds. (1987). What Does It Mean to Grown Old? Reflections from the Humanities. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Cole, T. R., van Tasel, D. D. and R. Kastenbaum, eds. (1992) Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. New York: Springer Publishing Company. 

De Beauvoir, S. (trans. P. O‘Brien) (1972). The Coming-of-Age. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 

Deats, S. M. and L. T. Lenker, eds. (1999) Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. 

Ellis, A. (2009). Old Age, Masculinity, and Early Modern Drama. Comic Elders on the Italian and Shakespearean Stage. Farnham: Ashgate. 

Featherstone, M. and A. Wernick, eds. (1995). Images of Aging: Cultural Representations of Later Life. London: Routledge. 

Fischer, D. H. (1977). Growing Old in America. New York: Oxford University Press.  

Friedan, B. (1993). The Fountain of Age. New York: Simon and Schuster. 

Gullette, M. M. (1997). Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. 

Gullette, M. M. (2004). Aged by culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Katz, S. (1996). Disciplining Old Age: The Formation of Gerontological Knowledge. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. 

Kenyon, G. M., Clark, P. G., and B. De Vries (2001). Narrative Gerontology: Theory, Research, and Practice. New York: Springer. 

Mangan, M. (2013). Staging Ageing: Theatre, Performance and the Narrative of Decline. Bristol: Intellect. 

Martin, C. (2012). Constituting Old Age in Early Modern English Literature from Queen Elizabeth to King Lear. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 

Minois, G. (1989). History of Old Age: From Antiquity to the Renaissance. Translated by Sarah Hanbury Tenison. Cambridge: Polity Press. 

Nelson, T. D., ed. (2004). Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older Persons. Cambridge, MA: MIT. 

Ottaway, S. R. (2004). The Decline of Life: Old Age in Eighteenth-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Ottaway, S. R., L. A. Botelho, L. A. and K. Kittredge, eds. (2002) Power and Poverty: Old Age in Pre-Industrial Past. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. 

Povlsen, J., Mellemgaard, S. and N. de Coninck-Smith, eds. (1999). Childhood and Old Age: Equals or Opposites. Odense M: Odense University Press. 

Shahar, S. (1997). Growing Old in the Middle Ages. New York: Routledge. 

Thane, P. (2000). Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Torres, S. (2020). Ethnicity and Old Age: Expanding our Imagination. London: Policy Press. 

Twigg, J. and W. Martin, eds. (2015). Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Von Dorotka Bagnell, P., and P. Spencer Soper, eds. (1989). Perceptions of Aging in Literature: A Cross-Cultural Study. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. 

Wong, P. T. P., and L. M. Watt. (1991). ‘What Types of Reminiscence are Associated with Successful Aging?’, Psychology and Aging 6/2, 272–279. 

Yallop, H. (2013). Age and Identity in Eighteenth-Century England. London: Pickering and Chatto.