The fictional representation of the cognitive experience of people with dementia is often credited with providing an occasion for readerly empathy and a privileged mimetic account of dementia experience. This essay draws on recent scholarship by Caroline Levine and Anna Kornbluh that expands the notion of form to include infrastructures, institutions, and other entities that provide sustenance and continuity to offer a different account of the cultural work such fictions do. The essay argues that two canonical works of fiction about dementia— J. Bernlef's Out of Mind and B. S. Johnson's House Mother Normal—do not merely offer a mimesis of dementia experience (the focus of existing research). These works take seriously dementia experience's challenge to formal coherence as they (however ambivalently) displace the task of providing continuity and sustenance to caring institutions rather than to residual ratiocinative capacities. Both novels repurpose the ellipses and blanks that are typical of the representation of dementia “mind styles” for something other than an indication of deficient subjectivity: in Bernlef, they become an indicator of lyrical and timeless sustenance and suspension; in Johnson, they point to regularities that invite the reader to coconstruct an imaginative space that sustains the lives the novel evokes.

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