This article considers the form of dementia conversation as it features in literary memoirs, in sociological and drama research papers, and in theatrical works, exploring the intersubjective nature of such conversation, and in particular the way that laughter serves to structure it and connect those who engage in it. In losing our ability to remember, we also lose our ability to expect: to anticipate and organize future time. Those with dementia continue to be able to initiate, conduct, and organize conversations in time, however, and to regulate shared affect, via the “melody” of speech. We examine the ways in which certain forms of language and extralinguistic gestures remain in place when propositional speech is lost. These are forms of conversation that wield some illocutionary force, perform some action, in making ongoing relationships possible, functional, and even fulfilling. The discussion builds on the work of theater scholar Elinor Fuchs—her memoir about her mother's dementia, but also her writing about theater and the insights its formal modes have given her into dementia and ageing in general—to formulate an account of dementia language and the way it operates, as theater does, in the mode of Now.

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