Scholars in literary aging studies typically engage in oppositional readings that reveal the often-hidden age ideologies of texts while addressing points of exit from these ideologies. This form of research is ethical and political in that it aims to clarify cultural meanings of aging and how to negotiate and subvert them in a world characterized by structural and everyday ageism. Inspired by Rita Felski's plea not to go too far in our suspicion toward the hidden meanings of a text and to value uses of literature other than the strictly ideological, this article focuses on the figure of the older lay reader and their reading practices. It presents field work involving a 2017 reading and writing club of women over sixty who responded to the novella Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill (2006) by the Flemish author Dimitri Verhulst. Analyzing the reading diaries, group discussion, and creative writing exercises of the participants will show how these readers draw on both form and ideology when making sense of and coming to terms with the life and death of the main character, an eighty-two-year-old widow who descends from the hill to die and to follow her beloved to the grave.

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