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Autumnal Faces

Old Age in British and Irish Dramatic Narratives

Katarzyna Bronk

Autumnal Faces is a timely study within the ever-growing research on the ways older people and ageing itself have been conceptualized and represented in the popular imagination and, more specifically, in drama and on stage. Tracing this theme from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century, this volume offers original, innovative and diachronic analyses of plays and performances that focus on or are peopled with older characters. The contributors study the roots of positive and negative stereotypes pertaining to senescence and the elderly, offering meticulous interpretations of dramatic narratives and performances on topics such as gendered ageing, geronticide, the «sins» of senex amans and iratus, ageing and uncontrolled passions versus ageing and prudence, longevity and immortality, memory and life narratives, the elderly as storytellers and repositories of wisdom in British and Irish culture, Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of self, and intergenerational conflicts. Ultimately, this collection of essays answers the ongoing call for more studies devoted to humanistic/cultural gerontology, seeing old age not just as an issue affecting past generations but one that is increasingly important as we all age into an unknown future.

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11 Representations of Senescence in Tony Harrison’s Black Daisies for the Bride (Sandie Byrne)


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11  Representations of Senescence in Tony Harrison’s Black Daisies for the Bride


The film-poem Black Daisies for the Bride, written by Tony Harrison and directed by Peter Symes (BBC 1993), is set in the Alzheimer’s ward of High Royds Hospital. Documentary sections of the film focusing on three female patients who are losing memories, and thus identity, are intercut with fictional representations of the women as happy, beautiful young brides. An entertainer singing popular songs seems to trigger a residual sense of rhythm and even some words in the women’s minds, which supports Harrison’s insistence on the primacy and importance of the metrical beat. This chapter considers the connections of the film-poem with drama, its ethical aspects and the signs it employs to signify old age and the effects of Alzheimer’s. In particular, it focuses on the film’s representation of elderly women, the fictionalization of their lives and the choice of the wedding day as a metonymic representation of the apex and climax of those lives.

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