This special issue, “Forms of Aging,” will appear in a world reshaped by the outbreak of COVID-19. The disease brought the global realities of ageism into unprecedented focus: with more than 40 percent of deaths in the first wave of COVID associated with people living in care homes, the response by governments across the world was sluggish at best and nonexistent at worst.1 The prominent age critic Margaret Gullette questioned in March 2020, “Will anxiety, which already runs high, come to be focused on the figure of an old person who is seen as expendable?” Examining triage situations across the globe, where decisions about care were often taken “on the basis of age alone,” she offered an emphatic yes. The destruction of older lives in care homes was represented as an “inevitable biological catastrophe”—an act of God or nature, unfortunate but necessary casualties in the war against the disease. Writing in January 2021, Gullette reflected on the sting of our collective indifference, which she suggested evoked the dark history of “stingy nineteenth-century ‘poorhouses’ for ‘the old and indigent.’ In the twentieth century,” she writes, “nursing homes picked up these ugly connotations, making them seem frightening and to be avoided at all costs.” The lack of support for older people and the care workers at the front lines wrote large the structural ageism that is so deeply interwoven into our institutions and so often obscured through rote platitudes about respect for the elderly. As the economic activity of the planet screeched to a halt in March 2020, age rose to the foreground of debates about the value of human life: who was deserving of care in a time of crisis and who was not.
The problems associated with both triage and care homes can also be framed as problems of form: both deploy hierarchal forms to, in the words of Caroline Levine (2015: 82), “arrange bodies, things, and ideas according to levels of power or importance.” Where triage organizes the urgency of treatment around demographic and bodily markers, care homes arrange space to suit the social and biological needs of older people. Arguably, there is nothing inherently sinister in these formal arrangements, which arise as institutionalized responses to the scarcity of care and resources. But the pandemic underscored both the fragility and brutality of these hierarchical forms, which quickly turned against their ostensibly reparative intent. As a hierarchical form, triage enables a medical practitioner to determine an order of care during an emergency by considering multiple criteria (severity of symptoms, vital signs, comorbidities, etc.); in the early stages of the pandemic, however, ageist assumptions about the frailty of old age overwhelmed every other variable. Care homes, designed to preserve the life and dignity of older people, became arenas for the sacrifice of the surplus population: the spatial requirements for allocating specialist care also affording the possibilities of devastating enclosure and segregation. The pandemic merely drew to the surface the tacit assumptions lurking behind the facade of policies and institutions such as these, forcing a reckoning with the ways that society has rationalized the destruction of its most vulnerable members. Yet the revelation of this “open secret” also provides an opening; when crisis draws out the tacit ageism in supposedly ameliorative forms, fissures can appear that reveal their contingency and openness to transformation. It is in this regard, for Levine, that the study of forms presents opportunities for social justice: “One of the places where humans have some agency is in the order that we ourselves impose: our spatial and temporal arrangements, our hierarchies of value and distributions of wealth” (xii). Criticism of the inequities of our social forms—whether it be triage or the care home—provides a first step toward understanding the mechanisms that enabled and accelerated the mass death of huge swathes of the population.
When Gullette critiques social forms such as triage and the care home, she draws on her pathbreaking work that interrogates the cultural narratives that shape the experience of aging. Gullette (2017) identifies a “master narrative of life-course decline” that reduces aging to a fear-inducing process of mental and physical deterioration. The absence of significant alternatives to the narrative of decline has resulted in an impoverished social discourse of aging that manifests itself in implicit and explicit ageism. As the essays in this special issue attest, scholars of literary form are well equipped to challenge this narrative of decline; indeed, the contributors consistently draw upon form as a way of disrupting some of the most engrained and problematic expectations regarding older age. By privileging the formless, nonlinear, immediate, and durable, the scholars in this special issue offer a profound critique of the continuity over time that undergirds the notion of personhood. In addition, attention to literary forms plays an important role when it comes to issues of social justice and aging. Forms enable and disable what can be said; they shape the way we receive and process information; they conjure affects that can supplement or contradict the content that they contain. By better understanding the forms of aging that work to construct and sometimes dismantle agism we can identify points of intervention to ensure a more equitable distribution of care in our societies.
Literary Age Studies and Form
The field of age studies was shaped by scholarship such as Margaret Gullette's Aged by Culture (2004), Margaret Cruikshank's Learning to Be Old (2003), and Thomas Cole's The Journey of Life (1992). These monographs challenged the biological essentialism projected onto old age—that one would inevitably age into frailty, dementia, and loneliness—by examining the role of culture in constructing our beliefs about aging. As these scholars showed, popular representations of older people remained disturbingly tethered to naturalized “age-appropriate” behaviors. Ideology critique has been influential for literary age studies,2 though recent scholars have extended this approach in diverse ways. For example, there has been a proliferation of studies that provide fresh literary-historical accounts by attending to the critically neglected role of old age and aging. Susannah Ottaway's The Decline of Life (2004) and Karen Chase's The Victorians and Old Age (2009), in their respective monographs on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, examine Poor Law legislation to interpret the era's politics of aging and question our tendency to look backward for a “golden age” of aging. Devoney Looser uses age as a means of questioning the idea of periodization itself, asking us to rethink how terms like Victorian map onto the long life of women authors who lived and published well past these chronological delimitations. For example, though scholars often frame Maria Edgeworth as an “eighteenth-century” author, her last novel, Helen, was published in 1834—the negelect of this novel, Looser (2008: 41) argues, reveals the gendered impact of ageism on authorship and reception during the period. Both contemporary and historical accounts have brought the submerged narratives of older people to the surface and exposed the structural ageism woven into our institutions.
Reframing age as culturally constructed and historically contingent aligns age studies with the critical treatment of more familiar contexts: race, class, gender, and sexuality. The relationship of age to these contexts has fascinated critics: Nicholas Dames (2011: 115) writes that “We can guess with some confidence what an annual income of, say, £300 in 1860 might mean, even how it would ‘feel’; what it might ‘feel’ like to be 50 years old in 1860 is much more opaque.” Though not always realized due to accident or illness, the prospect of old age looms before most, though the quality and duration of growing older is highly dependent on factors such as wealth, gender, and race. Critics have thus found inspiration in intersectional studies. Indeed, some of the earliest age studies scholarship engaged with what Susan Sontag (1972: 31) called the “double standard of aging,” taking a feminist approach to the unequal experience of aging for men and women.3 Monographs and articles on the relations between poverty and old age,4 aging and sexuality,5 and race and age6 have further expanded the scope of age studies by demonstrating how categories of identity are not fixed but temporally contingent.
Another rich strand of age studies scholarship has approached the topic from a philosophical and theoretical perspective. Kathleen Woodward's Aging and Its Discontents (1991), for example, draws together cultural critique and psychoanalysis to interrogate the pervasive repression of aging across Western cultures. Woodward identifies a psychoanalytic blind spot toward old age, where a theoretical orientation toward youth and adulthood leaves senescence as the Other of the life course. Helen Small's The Long Life (2007) takes a similarly ambitious approach by making old age the organizing principle of her survey of Western philosophy and literature. How, she asks, does reinserting the excluded endpoint of the human lifespan into fundamental philosophical questions change the way we think about “the relation between a long life and a good life; with what we think it means to be a person; with whether and for how long identity persists”? (4). Old age, Small concludes, “touches on, and makes a difference to, how we understand epistemology, virtue, justice, self-interest, metaphysics, and, not least, what is natural for us” (272). Where the first strand of age studies uses ideology critique as a way of revealing and challenging manifestations of agism in culture, this more philosophically oriented strand uses old age as an analytical framework for rethinking some of our most fundamental theoretical assumptions.
Yet as scholars have engaged in the profoundly important work of critiquing ageist ideologies and rethinking the philosophical tradition, there has been less said about the forms that shape and carry the meanings related to aging and old age.7 Age studies has tended to focus on drawing out the harmful contradictions latent within the discourses (or lack thereof) on older people. By defining the cultural and political significance of age as a category, this scholarship has set the foundation for what Elizabeth Barry and Martha Vibe Skagen (2020: 6) describe as the “second wave” of age studies that builds from the level of “representations and identifications” to “a more conceptual stage.” Attending to form pushes the field in this conceptual direction by engaging with the larger structures that enable representations of aging: How do forms make aging more (or less) visible? How does form shape the limits of who counts as old? What structures give rise to a view of older people as essential or dispensable to society? How does form reflect and shape the way we understand the aging process? The essays collected in this issue not only demonstrate how form contains and gives expression to the experience of age and aging, but also show how senescence “writes back” to a cultural narrative of decline that situates older people as a burden. In this line of inquiry, age is centered as a form with its own set of affordances for organizing human life.
Caroline Levine has defined form in its broadest sense as “an arrangement of elements—an ordering, patterning, or shaping”—a useful definition for thinking through the many ways that age functions at the intersection of different social contexts (such as gender, sexuality, race, and social class) and organizational levels (the social, institutional, or literary). Levine's expansive definition, moreover, encompasses the more narrowly defined deployments of form that appear in this special issue. For these authors, form can mean many things: the set of conventions associated with a particular representational mode, such as cinema (Dufournaud) or the diary (Crossley); social forms such as institutions (Vermeulen), the reading group (Swinnen), generations (Joosen), economic precarity (Kruger), and late style (French); genres such as the epic (Guimarães) and science fiction (Jewusiak); and figures of speech and language such as the stereotype (Wohlmann) and dementia conversation (Barry). The array of different approaches to “form” within a single issue might be dizzying at first glance. Yet, as Jonathan Kramnick and Anahid Nersessian (2017: 665) write, form “become[s] intelligible in particular and independently interesting contexts”: “there is no reason to maintain or to desire a consistent use of the term form across the disciplines or even, perhaps, within a single discipline” (651). Formalism should not be understood as a monolithic methodology but as a set of “tactics” (to borrow Herbert Tucker's  term) that adapt to the problem at hand. Thus, the various deployments of form provide new perspectives on aging at the intersection of literary, social, and cultural contexts: the stigma attached to the narrative of decline, demographic fears of older people as an economic burden, the way ageism penetrates the very structures of our language and societal conventions.
The resurgence of interest in form in the past twenty years, spurred by critics such as Levine (2015), Marjorie Levinson (2018), Mark David Rasmussen (2002), and Susan Wolfson (2000), arose as a reaction to the methodological dominance of the New Historicism. For Levinson (142), there are two tendencies in the “new” formalism: an “activist formalism” that seeks to enrich the historical tendency of current scholarship with a sensitivity to issues of form, and a “normative formalism” that defends the special status of the artwork and the aesthetic as connected to pleasure and humanity. Levine (12) also identifies two strands: clusters of scholars who demonstrate how literary works reflect social forms (such as the rhythms of factory work manifesting in the metrical arrangements of poetry); and scholars who analyze literary form as an intervention that challenges hegemonic political power. The notion of an “activist” formalism functions differently for these critics—for Levinson, the analysis of form provides an opportunity for disciplinary and methodological intervention, where for Levine it functions more broadly as a means of resistance to political power—but both accounts attest to the ability of form and our formalisms to make a difference in the world. The essays in this special issue display a commitment to form in this activist mode: Katherine Kruger, for example, analyzes narrative temporality to critique the linked trajectories of capitalist progress and the human lifespan.
When we consider the essays of the volume collectively, they do more than reflect the role of new formalism within aging studies and broader social discourses on aging. They attest to the possibility of an old formalism, where age figures centrally as a principle of organization and formal inquiry rather than a marginalized category to be drawn to the surface. In other words, age is not only the object of formalist concern, but also serves as the subject that inspires our formalist practice. This reframing is significant because positioning older age as merely the object of analysis reproduces, at the level of critique, stereotypes that associate senescence with passivity. Instead, the approaches to age and form modeled by the essays in this volume demonstrate the vibrant possibilities of asking how the experience of growing older—in its existential, phenomenal, and biological modes—takes an active role by inspiring new approaches to the form of the text itself (which gives representational shape, implicitly or explicitly, to the process of aging).
What issues emerge across the essays in this volume that demonstrate the potential for a formalism to arise from aging (rather than formalism being used exclusively as the means of extracting meaning about aging from the text)? Both aging and older age, the authors demonstrate, force us to think about time in profoundly intimate and unsettling ways: from Barry's and Guimarães's interest in the Now, to Joosen's and Crossley's interrogations of the relational asynchronies of age disparities, and, finally, to Jewusiak's and Kruger's critiques of environmental and economic futurity, the issue demonstrates a sustained engagement with the temporal modalities of aging as a process. As Jane Gallop (2017: 9) writes, “Aging is all about temporality, is literally the lived experience of temporality,” and the essays in this special issue offer a new approach to form by reading it through the overlapping temporalities of biology, culture, and literature. An old formalism attunes itself to the fact that time—the time of reading, narrative temporality, metrical arrangements, institutional time—is lived in, inextricably tied to the aging of our bodies.
The special issue also models the kind of scalar diversity that reflects the complex process of aging itself, which is at once intimately bound up with our individual sense of self and a significant variable in the demographic imagination. This is reflected in the range of perspectives developed here: from the larger scale of Vermeulen's inquiry into institutions and Swinnen's engagement with the reading group to the granular level of Barry's analysis of dementia language and Wolhmann's critique of the stereotype. The multiple scales of analysis across the volume—from language, to genre, to mode, to social form, to the planet—present the study of age as a series of interlinked nesting boxes of increasing or decreasing scope and generality. The concept of scale plays an important role in age studies, as the life stages model of maturation—from the infant, to adolescent, to adult, to older person—pivots on the transformations that occur over time. These scalar transformations can be coded as positive expansions (such as the perspective or “wisdom” that arises from the accumulation of experience) or negative contractions (such as diminishing capability due to disability arising in older age). The telescoping effect of growing older provides a useful model for conceptualizing form across different scales. Forms can expand or contract, evolve across time and place: analysis of a large form reveals a great deal about the smaller forms it contains, and vice versa. The study of age, attuned to the minute scalar transformations that occur across the lifespan, inspires our formalism with an attention to the thresholds that distinguish one scale to another.
The articles in this special issue not only attest to the hermeneutic possibilities of reading age through the lens of form, but also, when taken collectively, demonstrate how a critical approach to aging can inspire the practice of formalism itself, attuning it to the temporal and scalar diversity that arises from the experience of growing old. An old formalism, for example, recognizes that the formal ambiguity in the human lifespan—when does the experience of a middle-aged person slide into that of an older person?—serves as a useful starting point for asking undertheorized questions about the structure of texts. How does the phenomenal experience of aging enable a new perspective on the feeling of time passing in literature and cinema? How might the recognition that one is old be mapped onto other threshold experiences, such as climate change and economic decline? This special issue represents only a first step toward a potentially larger reckoning for formalist practice: not only situating our formalist readings by enriching them with historical contexts—as much as New Formalist scholarship does—but also imagining ways that our formalisms align with, arise from, or push against the object they are deployed to analyze. While my summaries in the next section will survey the large range of topics covered in the issue, they will also trace the conceptual patterns that knit individual essays together. I hope that the new lines of inquiry here will inspire further studies at the intersection of form and age and serve as a provocation to reflect on the limits and possibilities of formalism.
This special issue begins with two articles that focus on forms of dementia. Pieter Vermeulen's article on J. Bernlef's Out of Mind and B. S. Johnson's House Mother Normal theorizes a way of reading dementia fiction that shifts the center of gravity away from the mimetic project related to consciousness and toward a constructivist project related to form and institutions. Dementia literature, he observes, often situates the disease as a challenge to the formal coherence of the self—a backsliding into formlessness, fragmentation, and loss. Asking us to think about the representation of dementia consciousness as a constructive project, Vermeulen finds a reparative impulse in the call to institutions engaged in the work of maintenance, sustainment, and routines. In his analysis of these two works, Vermeulen finds that dementia gives rise to institutional forms that act as “compensatory formations” that provide support to bodies that require care.
In contrast to the larger scale of institutional forms, Elizabeth Barry pitches her analysis at the fine-grained level of demential conversation. In it, she argues that the illocutionary force of language serves as a means of forging meaningful relationships when propositional forms of communication are no longer tenable. Using the literary memoir of Elinor Fuchs as a case study, Barry examines how dementia reduces the subject's ability to both remember and anticipate. However, Barry explains, this falling away of attention to past and future does not result in irredeemable existential loss, but provides an opening to appreciate the textured experience of the present. Inspired by performance studies and linguistics, she theorizes dementia conversation through the lens of the theatrical Now, a modality of communication that urges us to attend to the role of melody, rhythm, and repetition as a means of self-assertion and intersubjective relations. While they approach the topic in different ways, both Barry and Vermeulen provide philosophical critiques of selfhood as predicated on continuity.
Anita Wohlmann shares Barry's interest in language by asking us to rethink age stereotypes. Though stereotypes are almost universally reviled as constructing harmful generalizations about old age, Wohlmann suggests that we reflect on the potentially affirmative affordances of this form of expression. Through an analysis of the repetition and amplification of age-related stereotypes in Philip Roth's Everyman—from hackneyed character types like the “frivolous adventurer” to trite metaphors such as old age as a “battle”—Wohlmann acknowledges the detrimental impact of such stereotypes while also registering the relational work that they do. Reading stereotypes from a formal rather than semantic standpoint, Wolhmann suggests that the hollowness and banality of the stereotype does not necessarily reflect an aesthetic failing or bad faith, but can be instrumentalized to provide comfort, humor, and order to a social experience that can otherwise feel fragmented and alien to older people.
Katherine Kruger provides much needed insight into the precarious conditions that, in the post-crash economy of the twenty-first century, many older people find themselves. Through readings of Deborah Levy's The Cost of Living and Jenny Offill's Weather, Kruger reminds us that the fantasy of upward mobility no longer applies in a world structured by economic decline and precipitous downward mobility for older people. She proposes the temporal modalities of maintenance and milling as narrative forms that capture the idiosyncratic rhythms of precarity and care. Instead of the triumphant arc of productivity and progress, the middle-aged and older women characters of these two texts find themselves circling, waiting, and suspended. Such inertia captures the bleak temporality of the post-crash economy (and the response to imminent catastrophes such as climate change). And yet these forms of endurance also serve as what Kruger calls “the untimely counterpoint to the urgency of crisis”—a means of survival that forces the characters to find new coordinates for fulfillment in later life.
Like Kruger, Jade Elizabeth French challenges the ways that hegemonic ideas about progress shape our understanding of the human lifespan. Focusing on the career of the Djuna Barnes, French situates the poet's “contradictory late style” as a way of thinking through the interlinked relationship between the artist's career and the notion of a “finished” text. French engages with drafts, letters, receptions, and editorial influences to demonstrate the intimate way that Barnes's process was implicated in her sense of growing older. Through its careful attention to Barnes's drafting and redrafting, this essay problematizes assumptions about productivity and later life and critiques the role of the commodity in our thinking about what constitutes artistic worth and output. In this way, French's article challenges the narrative of decline that underwrites a great deal of thinking about artistic creativity and aging.
The next two essays address the concept of the “generation” as a form that organizes social life. Focusing on the relationships between a girl and older man in Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock and Ali Smith's Autumn, Vanessa Joosen examines how the formal experimentation of the novels works to blur the line between intergenerational friendship and desire. Unreliable narration, incomplete memories, and narrative gaps serve as formal means of manifesting the ambiguity that enables a discussion of the taboo associated with intergenerational desire and children's sexuality. As Joosen argues, critical reluctance to engage with this potentially incendiary topic has impoverished our understanding of children's agency, which is often negotiated through intergenerational relationships. Attentive to the ethics involved with both the representation of intergenerational relationships and the position of young readers, Joosen demonstrates the need for a clear-eyed engagement with the function of gendered age gaps in constructing youthful subjectivity.
In my contribution, I analyze the environmental implications of generational short-circuiting in the sterility dystopia of P. D. James's Children of Men, where a global inability to procreate has resulted in a world populated by older and aging characters. The sterility dystopia underscores the demographic anxiety underwriting the relation between climate change and an aging planet, offering a vision not of a world lacking children, as we might expect, but rather of a world catastrophized by the overabundance of the old and aging. Reflecting on genre provides a way of reading the sterility dystopia as more than a mere conservative sentimentalizing of heterosexual reproduction, and instead provokes a queer confrontation with the gendered politics of demographic change. In this way, I argue that a queer approach to intergenerational time provides the means for grappling with a precarious future by attuning itself to the productive contingency, rather than assurance, of the future.
Genre also plays a significant role in João Paulo Guimarães's analysis of Ron Silliman's Universe, a massive poetic project that “establishes an analogy between the length of his life and the length of his work.” Like Barry's exploration of the theatrical Now of dementia conversation, Guimarães finds a similar investment in the protracted present of Silliman's everyday. The everyday of Silliman's Universe, moreover, resonates with the legacy of the epic. Yet far from an epic investment in immortality or life extension, Silliman's poetry is an epic of enrichment. In its attention to the granular experience of everyday life, Silliman's poetry captures something of the mundane temporality of aging. This attentiveness allows us to register the texture of growing older—in both its banality and beauty—as a way of enriching our experience.
The form of cinema plays a central role in Dan Dufournaud's analysis of Yasujirō Ozu's Tokyo Story and Lee Chang-dong's Poetry. Drawing together the techniques of “slow cinema” with the depredations of the aging body, Dufournaud asks us to reflect on the existential and phenomenological implications of slowness. Like Guimarães, who identifies a renewed appreciation of the present in Silliman's poetics of the everyday, Dufournaud finds that the decelerated pace and long takes of slow cinema charge the phenomenal experience of the now with an aesthetic intensity. Both slow cinema and older age, Dufournaud suggests, constitute a powerful challenge to the culture of productivity that characterizes late capitalism, denaturalizing the frenetic tempos that gloss over the intersubjective experiences of intimacy, closeness, and love.
Alice Crossley's essay on Tanizaki Jun'ichirō’s Diary of a Mad Old Man also focuses on the role of forms—such as the diary, film, and photography—in shaping attitudes toward aging masculinity and desire. Crossley explores the evolution of the character Utsugi's sexuality, which finds expression in a masochistic desire centering around his daughter-in-law's feet—the pain of growing older becomes entangled with the frustrations and debasements that he imaginatively displaces onto his sexual relationships which nevertheless provide him with a means for subjective self-fashioning. Resonating with Joosen's analysis of intergenerational desire, Crossley's interrogation into Tanizaki's use of age disparities finds expression in the fractured aesthetic forms that compose the novel.
The final essay in the special issue reflects on the possibilities of form to provoke a postcritical turn for age studies. Aagje Swinnen's essay pushes against conventional critical analysis by drawing our attention to surfaces and the value of amateurism. Swinnen aligns her postcritical method with that of the participants of a reading group who meet to discuss Dimitri Verhulst's novella Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill. In her innovative blending of literary theory and sociological methods, Swinnen provides insight into the effects of age on the practice of reading and interpretation, which both reflects entrenched cultural beliefs and takes shape through the collaborative experience of the reading group. As Swinnen demonstrates, we have a great deal to learn from the experience of older readers who did not become “lost” in speculation over “ ‘deep’ hidden meanings,” an alternative to the hermeneutics of suspicion that brings us back to the affirmative and collective pleasures of sharing a text with others.
While acknowledging the legacy of structural ageism that delimits the experience of growing older, these essays use the analysis of form to reveal and imagine new modes of aging in relation to others: reparative modes of dialogue, collaborative reading practices, the shared rhythms and resonances of listening. While some of the essays collected here engage with the aesthetic aspects of form, none of them can be reduced to an exclusive focus on this traditional conception of the category. Indeed, the essays model deeply interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches. Far from exhausting the potential of this theme, this special issue should serve as an opening for future discussion and a springboard for more innovative inquiries into the relation between form and age.
Ageist viewpoints also informed policy: the director general of the World Health Organization (Barnes: 2020) observed that the slow response to the crisis was a symptom of deeply held beliefs that old people were “less worthy of the best efforts to contain” the virus.
Elements of ideology critique can be traced back to Simone de Beauvoir's 1970 (trans. 1972) The Coming of Age. The method continues to inform seminal studies in the field of literary age studies, such as Sally Chivers's The Silvering Screen (2011) and Devoney Looser's Women Writers and Old Age (2008).
Work on age and gender represents the largest subfield in age studies, including work such as Lynn Segal's Out of Time (2014), Leni Marshall's Age Becomes Us (2015), and Christopher Martin's Constituting Old Age in Early Modern English Literature from Queen Elizabeth to ‘King Lear’ (2012).
While issues relating to social class and poverty appear in many examples of literary age studies scholarship, there are surprisingly few monographs that focus on the topic. Historians, however, have written a great deal; for example, Robin Blackburn's Age Shock (2011), John Macnicol's Neoliberalising Old Age (2015), and Pat Thane's Old Age in English History (2000).
In its intersecting of queer theory and age studies around the figure of the nonreproductive body, Cynthia Port's “No Future? Aging, Temporality, History, and Reverse Chronologies” (2012) has been an influential piece of scholarship in thinking through the relation between age and sexuality. There are also examples of cultural history, such as Jane Traies's The Lives of Older Lesbians (2017), that bring the vibrant experience of marginalized groups into the open.
Work on race and age is a relatively new and burgeoning subfield. Habiba Ibrahim's Black Age: Oceanic Lifespans and the Time of Black Life (2021) and Nate Windon's “The Slope of the Years” (2019) have charted new ground in the field of American literature. Scholarship such as Emily Kate Timms's “I Could Turn Viper Tomorrow” (2020) and Jacob Jewusiak's “Grandpaternalism” (2020b) show how the cross-pollination of concepts between postcolonial theory and age studies provides innovative ways of approaching the politics of identity in literary texts.
Of course, some exceptions exist: my interest in editing this special issue arose from my research on form for Aging, Duration, and the English Novel (2020a). In addition, form plays a central role in the burgeoning scholarship on aging and cinema, which has explored the phenomenological aspects of the medium (Pamela Gravagne's The Becoming of Age , Amir Cohen-Shalev's Visions of Aging ), the bodies of actors and actresses (Josephine Dolan's Contemporary Cinema and Old Age ), and the role of old age in the culture of Hollywood (Sally Chivers's The Silvering Screen ).