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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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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

Insult, Injury, and Age’s Redefinitional Violence

Insult, Injury, and Age’s Redefinitional Violence

Chapter:
(p.103) 3 Insult, Injury, and Age’s Redefinitional Violence
Source:
Edith Wharton and the Modern Privileges of Age
Author(s):

Melanie V. Dawson

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813066301.003.0004

Tracing insults about aging, alongside perceptions of aging as injurious to the self, this chapter explores the spectacular nature of public insults, real and imagined in fictions by Wharton, Lewis, Fitzgerald, Hergesheimer, Glasgow, and Ferber. These scenarios, which stress aging’s painful visibility, appear throughout assessments of female beauty. Aging patriarchs, who transform their lives in efforts to reinvent their identities, however, are treated somewhat more sympathetically, even when they fixate on early youth, impossibly precious success, and romances with much younger women. When such exercises fail, the texts stress aging’s inevitability. More positive accounts of aging, understood here as a rich maturity, by contrast, appear across agrarian fictions, which circumvent social contexts and instead depict cyclical patterns of natural renewal, thereby rejecting linear conceptions of age and embracing aging as part of a life of accomplished productivity.

Keywords:   Public insult, Fitzgerald, Glasgow, Ferber, Female beauty, Aging patriarch, cyclical patterns, natural renewal

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