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The Journey of Life is both a cultural history of aging and a contribution to public dialogue 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.
List of illustrations; Preface; Introduction; Part I. The Ages of Life and the Journey of Life: Transcendental 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 'civilized' old age, 1850–1910; Part III. Science and the Ideal of Normal Aging: 8. The aging of 'civilized' 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; Index.