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The Journey of Life

The Journey of Life
A Cultural History of Aging in America

Part of Canto original series

  • Date Published: September 1997
  • availability: Unavailable - out of print October 2003
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521595797


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About the Authors
  • The Journey of Life is both a cultural history of aging and a contribution to public dialogues about the meaning and significance of later life. The core of the book shows how central texts and images of Northern middle-class culture, first in Europe and then in America, created and sustained specifically modern images of the life course between the Reformation and World War I. During this long period, secular, scientific, and individualist tendencies steadily eroded ancient and medieval understandings of aging as a mysterious part of the eternal order of things. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, postmodern images of life's journey offer a renewed awareness of the spiritual dimensions of later life and new opportunities for growth in an aging society.

    • The concept of ageing is a growing area of interest among gerontologists in UK and Europe - coping with an ageing population is one of the biggest problems facing Western societies
    • Emphasis on the European origins of modern American conceptions of the life course
    • This is a work of cultural history in the style of Christopher Lasch (widely reviewed cultural commentator) whose student Cole was
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'One could not ask for a more learned or compassionate guide to the mysteries of aging than Thomas R. Cole.' The New York Times Book Review

    'Thomas R. Cole's fascinating study, The Journey of Life, is not so much the history of aging per se, but of attitudes toward it and toward those to whom old age happens. It is therefore necessarily also about American attitudes toward the past and future and the underlying nature of wisdom. The book is exhaustive, its line of development persuasive. It reflects a continuing ambiguity and multiplicity of attitudes in society at every stage.' David Mehegan, Boston Globe

    'Cole makes a powerful case for the proposition that we can no longer afford the illusions about aging that we have inherited from the nineteenth century.' Christopher Lasch, University of Rochester

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 1997
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521595797
    • length: 298 pages
    • dimensions: 215 x 139 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • contains: 44 b/w illus.
    • availability: Unavailable - out of print October 2003
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Part I. The Ages of Life and the Journey of Life: Transcendent Ideals:
    1. Aging in the Western tradition: cultural origins of the modern life course
    2. The aging pilgrim's progress in the New World
    3. 'Death without order': the late Calvinist ideal of aging
    Part II. The Dualism of Aging in Victorian America:
    4. Antebellum revivals and Victorian morals: the ideological origins of ageism
    5. Popular health reform and the legitimation of longevity, 1830–1870
    6. Aging, popular art, and Romantic religion in mid-Victorian culture
    7. In a different voice: self-help and the ideal of 'civilised' old age, 1850–1910
    Part III. Science and the Ideal of Normal Aging:
    8. The aging of 'civilised' morality: the fixed period versus prolongevity, 1870–1925
    9. Toward the scientific management of aging: the formative literature of gerontology and geriatrics, 1890–1930
    10. The prophecy of Senescence: G. Stanley Hall and the reconstruction of old age
    Epilogue: Beyond dualism and control - reflections on aging in postmodern culture

  • Author

    Thomas R. Cole, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

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