Konsten att avstå : Framställningar av åldrande och visdom i västeuropeisk litteratur från Cicero till Fredrika Bremer The Art of Ideal Ageing : Ageing and Wisdom in West European Literature from Cicero to Fredrika Bremer

by Alexandersson, Pär

Abstract (Summary)


This study discusses the tradition of ideal ageing, which emphasizes life-long virtue as an avenue to wisdom. In line with this tradition the senior members of society have been expected to take charge of and to organize their withdrawal from their social engagements, make themselves available to the younger generations needs without (openly) wanting to control them, and impart traditions without insisting that everything remain unchanged. Women have not been excluded from this tradition, but they have figured more in the margin. This is especially noticeable in the popular image of the ideal ageing man as a king in command of himself (but only in exceptional cases also in command of others).

The tradition of ideal ageing emerged during antiquity. Socrates held a central position in the formation of this set of values, Cicero’s De Senectute is a prototype of positive examples of ideal ageing, and Seneca’s texts on old age became, at the time, a model for how deterrent examples function as warnings to others. Traces of this tradition can, for example, be found in Shakespeare’s King Lear, and in texts by and about the ageing Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In the beginning of the 19th century, the tradition of ideal ageing in Swedish literature dominated the portrayals of the relationship between young and old, especially in texts by Esaias Tegnér, Erik Gustaf Geijer, and Fredrika Bremer, who all wrote at a time when a new national ideology was emerging. Some of these writers though did attempt to break with the tradition by portraying themselves in old age as passionate and perpetually young. This shows the importance of studying how individual writers, instead of regarding the tradition of ideal ageing only as a limiting norm or discourse, have used the tradition in accordance with their own interests and perspectives.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Uppsala universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:literature litteraturvetenskap


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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