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The life review and the (alternative) politics of ageing

Wilson, Sherryl

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© Edinburgh University Press. Referencing Diana Athill's memoir, Alive, Alive Oh! And Other Things That Matter (2015), this article organises an analysis of the BBC television dramas A Cream Cracker under the Settee (1988) and She's Been Away (1989) through the frame of Robert Butler's concept of the life review (1975) which, he argues, is a process through which unresolved conflicts and past experiences return to reflective consciousness, thus enabling resolution and recalibration of relationships and past events in the elderly. Viewed in the light of Butler's ideas, Athill and the 75-year-old female protagonist of each narrative suggest rarely depicted levels of agency and ongoing identity formation in the elderly. Although very different in tone, aesthetic appeal, narrative structure and class location, each drama similarly explores the inner lives of elderly women and reveals personal truths hitherto unacknowledged by them which also offer a reflection on wider society. In each case, the elderly protagonist can be seen as a subject in process with an identity formation that does not end in late life, while the life review also works to lift the veil between the dominant culture that largely wants to deny processes of ageing, and therefore death, and the lived experience of those undergoing the process.


Wilson, S. (2017). The life review and the (alternative) politics of ageing. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 14(2), 196-212.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 16, 2016
Online Publication Date May 31, 2017
Publication Date Apr 1, 2017
Deposit Date May 22, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 1, 2017
Journal Journal of British Cinema and Television
Print ISSN 1743-4521
Electronic ISSN 1755-1714
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 2
Pages 196-212
Keywords a cream cracker under the settee, agency, identity formation, life review, she’s been away, subject in process
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Additional Information Additional Information : This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in the Journal of British Cinema and television. The final published version can be accessed via the following link


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