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Edith Wharton and the Modern Privileges of Age$
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Melanie V. Dawson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066301

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066301.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Edith Wharton and the Modern Privileges of Age

Melanie V. Dawson

University Press of Florida

The introduction begins with a narrative of the anxieties surrounding aging, including the crisis it was believed to usher into age-obsessed characters’ lives. Historically, changing demographic patterns allowed for narratives in which age classifications raised as many problems as they attempted to solve across literary modes that included society tales, agrarian novels, anti-aging romances, and coming-into-maturity stories. This chapter introduces several narrative strands that age-based narratives took: that of circumventing the decline narratives associated with aging so as to value the middle and older aged experiences, as well as all less defined experiences between. Stories of communal aging, wherein social roles are distinguished based on qualities rather than strict chronologies, and narratives of stark intergenerational competition, which end in violence, also permeate modern literature.

Keywords:   age-obsessed, anxieties, demographic patterns, decline narratives, communal aging, intergenerational competition, violence, age classifications, coming-into-maturity

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