An enfolded present: Aging and mourning in the fiction of Bellow, Welty, Bowen, and Sarton




Stevens, Catherine D.

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The intensity of mourning in the elderly deepens with the attrition of time. Kathleen Woodward's model of aging grief in "Late Theory, Late Style" elaborates on Freud's theoretical views of the mastery of sadness, originating in his work "Mourning and Melancholia," as opposed to Roland Barthes' affective teleology of a nurturing sorrow in his book Camera Lucida, a curious synthesis of photography and mourning. By explicating the late works of writers as primary sources, using the existing criticism, and consulting psychological/gerontological sources, I intend to explore the relationship between aging men and women's mourning process and its resulting creativity in their works. Extending Woodward's theories of grief further, the late works of four modern writers seem to polarize either into the characteristic of a masculine Freudian bias to rid oneself of grief, or into a feminine Barthian use of one's grief to nurture the self. For Freud's harshly drawn delineation between mourning and melancholia would overlook Barthes' emotional locus, "in between" mourning and melancholia, that psychological sustenance of a grief which is interminable yet never pathologically riddled with melancholia. Saul Bellow's short stories ("The Bellarosa Connection," ''Something to Remember Me By," "A Silver Dish," "Him With His Foot in His Mouth," and "Zetland") act as the countertexts to the novels of Eudora Welty (Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter), Elizabeth Bowen (The Little Girls), and May Sarton (As We Are Now), exemplifying both themes of the masculine impetus to withdraw any allegiance to the dead, and the feminine refusal to subordinate a passionate commitment.



aging, mourning, grief, literature, creativity


Stevens, C. D. (1998). An enfolded present: Aging and mourning in the fiction of Bellow, Welty, Bowen, and Sarton (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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