By Amelia DeFalco
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Extra info for Uncanny Subjects: Aging in Contemporary Narrative
The preservation of personal narratives is often a defensive strategy that can temper the discomfiting changes of age. But this ontological function of narrative leads us to the problem of the nonnarrativized life: without a story the life is without explanation, without meaning, and by implication the nonnarrativized person is without selfhood. The inescapable emphasis placed on narrative in the production of meaning and identity presents serious difficulties for the victim of dementia or amnesia, whose selfhood is often seen as jeopardized by his or her reduced ability to employ memory in the service of personal narratives.
As discussed in the introduction, self-sameness incorporates the dynamism that results from temporal human existence by locating identity in narrative: “the story of a life continues to be refigured by all the truthful or fictive stories a subject tells about himself or herself. This refiguration makes this life itself a cloth woven of stories told” (Ricoeur, Time 3: 246). The productive incorporation of change and cohesion relies on recognition, on the subjects’ ability to read and write their lives, to “recognize themselves in the stories they tell about themselves” (Time 3: 247).
I believe aging can help us, or sometimes force us, to recognize our occupation of a space between singular selfhood and entirely subjected subjectivity. Aging into old age can usher us into an uncanny awareness of our own indistinction, our constantly fluctuating status, our own difference. The uncanniness of aging into old age can teach us that the self is always other than it was, other, even, than it is. C h a p t e r O n e Backward Glances Narrative Identity and Late-life Review Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich.