Old age and aging in British theatre and drama - An edited collection

full name / name of organization: 
dr Katarzyna Bronk
contact email: 

In contrast to the ongoing childhood studies, humanistic gerontology is still largely an unexplored research area, despite more and more attention being paid to old age by historians, sociologists and literary scholars. The latter have taken up the subject of aging and the elderly, trying to create something like an all-encompassing literary "meta-narrative old age" (Johnson and Thane, eds., Old age from antiquity to post-modernity, 17). Johnson and Thane suggest that this may be a fallacy and that one should rather focus on more contained historical and socio-cultural research areas when studying the processes and meaning of aging. This way, for instance, one can avoid interpretative mistakes attributed to Georges Minois.

Thus, to answer Johnson and Thane's call for strengthening "our understanding of smaller questions" and consequently to "produce a better history of old age and ageing" (18) the present volume will aim to investigate the notion of old age, or the "nebulous existence of unpredictable duration" (Von Dorotka Bagnel and Spencer Soper, eds., Perceptions of aging in literature, xix) via a diachronic inquiry into the phenomenon and its representations in visual and interactive artistic mediums – British theatre and drama.

The proposed collection of essays on embodied conceptualisations of age and aging is to broaden and go beyond existing studies on old age, aging and Shakespeare whose understanding and presentation of ages of mankind and senescence in, for instance, King Lear, Hamlet and As you like it, have been extensively analysed. Interested authors are invited to explore ALL periods and pieces of British drama in their presentation of old age as a concept, theme as well as performance. Thus thanks to its diachronic and comparative nature, the volume will hopefully broaden literary and cultural research on the final stages of life and yield new insights to the gaps in this area humanistic gerontology.

We invite abstracts on the following topics but other notions related to age, the elderly and aging in drama across centuries are likewise encouraged:

• biological, chronological, functional, cultural definitions of old age, senescence and aging in drama but also beyond

• performativity of old age (markers of old age; the old body on stage; etc)

• comic and tragic elderly and their plight

• old age/aging and playwrights/playwriting (deal with aging by means of art; do older playwrights write about old age or focus on youth)

• genderised aging on stage

• actors and actresses and aging

• younger versus older generations in drama (conflicts, struggles, reconciliations, etc)

• positive and negative stereotypes of the elderly

• stock characters (senex, crone, widow, benevolent father, dotard, etc) and their 'mutations' across centuries

• the influence of philosophical, religious and medical advice on old age and aging on drama (conduct texts, treatises, medical tracts)

• class/race/gender and dramatised old age

• new perspectives on Shakespeare's conceptualisations of aging, ages of mankind, senescence, etc

• comparative research on dramatising old age and aging (English vs French, German, Italian, American, etc)

• the future of humanistic gerontology (and dramatic arts)

Interested authors are kindly asked to send 500-word abstracts by 1st of October 2015 to dr Katarzyna Bronk (kbronk@wa.amu.edu.pl and bbronkk@gmail.com).

If accepted by the editors, selected abstracts will be collated into a thematic collection and proposed to an international publisher. Upon acceptance by the publisher, the authors will be asked to write full versions of their papers.