Age and Its Metaphors

Anita Wohlmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


For scholars in age studies, metaphor and metaphor theory hold ample resources for critical investigation. This chapter first describes metaphor’s relevance for the study of age and then offers a survey of the existing research on age and dementia metaphors by scholars in age studies. I then suggest an approach to metaphors that is inspired by concepts of use and usability in order to ask how a creative belaboring of problematic age metaphors might offer to scholars in age studies new ways of thinking about standardized, age-old metaphors that are, allegedly, burdened with age. In drawing on Gullette’s work on fashion cycles and their decline message, I propose that practices of repair and recycling can be useful concepts for rethinking worn-out metaphors. The gains of looking into strategies of reusability are illustrated in an analysis of the metaphors of decline and battle in three exemplary texts by US-American cartoonist Roz Chast and novelist Philip Roth. In the last section, I return to the age metaphors in metaphor theory to ask what an age studies perspective might be able to add to the study of metaphors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPalgrave Handbook of Literature and Aging
EditorsValerie Barnes Lipscomb, Aagje Swinnen
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication date19. Apr 2024
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-50916-2
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-50917-9
Publication statusPublished - 19. Apr 2024


  • age
  • aging
  • metaphors
  • usability
  • Philip Roth
  • Roz Chast


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