Journal of Romance Studies

Promenade au pays de la vieillesse

Re-viewing Simone de Beauvoir’s literary and cinematic representations of ageing

Journal of Romance Studies (2017), 17, (3), 275–292.

Abstract

The following article examines two important but critically neglected representations of ageing: Simone de Beauvoir’s La Vieillesse (1970) and, more briefly, Promenade au pays de la vieillesse (1974), a Swedish documentary film directed by Marianne Ahrne featuring Simone de Beauvoir and her philosophy on ageing. This article challenges the view that La Vieillesse provides a representative portrayal of the lived experience of ageing, arguing that the work focuses above all on male-authored literary accounts of the ageing process, with the voices of women surprisingly muted. It suggests that the inclusion of more individual women’s positive experiences of the ageing process may have potentially undermined the thesis of the work. It goes on to propose that Beauvoir’s drive to raise awareness of the social neglect of the aged, combined with her existential perspective, inhibits her ability to see ageing positively and thus to situate herself outside of a highly conventional aesthetics of ageing.

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McIlvanney, Siobhán