Sweet old things

Moral complexities in old age in muriel spark's memento mori

Suzanne E. England, Martha D. Rust

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Through the lens of Muriel Spark's dark comedic novel, Memento Mori, this paper explores questions of morality, mortality, and the moral choices and performances in old age and in the systems and places of care. Spark's elderly characters are complex moral actors - some virtuous and some decidedly not - who have been receiving mysterious phone calls telling them simply, "Remember you must die." We, the co-authors, are from two different disciplines, namely Renaissance and medieval literature, and social work and critical gerontology. Among the questions that interest us is the paradox of a master narrative that on the one hand exempts the old from moral criticism yet holds them to a higher moral standard - essentially positioning them as moral nonentities, and relieving the old, their caretakers, and society of moral responsibility. Another is the question of whether moral agency in old age has distinctive aspects, and whether consciousness of one's impending mortality effects moral reasoning and performance. In this paper we offer our individual readings of the ways the novel opens up conceptual space in aging theory, and conclude with our thoughts about what our collaboration suggests for continuing cross-disciplinary dialogue.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)76-85
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Aging Studies
    Volume33
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

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    Morus
    Medieval Literature
    Mortality
    Social Work
    Consciousness
    Geriatrics
    Lenses
    Reading
    Renaissance

    Keywords

    • Literature
    • Memento mori
    • Morality
    • Old age
    • Virtues

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
    • Health Policy

    Cite this

    Sweet old things : Moral complexities in old age in muriel spark's memento mori. / England, Suzanne E.; Rust, Martha D.

    In: Journal of Aging Studies, Vol. 33, 01.04.2015, p. 76-85.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    England, Suzanne E. ; Rust, Martha D. / Sweet old things : Moral complexities in old age in muriel spark's memento mori. In: Journal of Aging Studies. 2015 ; Vol. 33. pp. 76-85.
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