Writing Old Age and Impairments in Late Medieval England
A ground-breaking study of old age impairments in Middle English literature and their function as prosthetic additions, which draw attention both to the debility of old age and its ability to complete and drive narrative.
The old speaker in Middle English literature often claims to be impaired because of age. This admission is often followed by narratives that directly contradict it, as speakers, such as the Reeve in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Amans in Gower’s Confessio Amantis, proceed to perform even as they claim debility. More than the modesty topos, this contradiction exists, the book argues, as prosthesis: old age brings with it debility, but discussing age-related impairments augments the old, impaired body, while simultaneously undercutting and emphasizing bodily impairments. This language of prosthesis becomes a metaphor for the works these speakers use to fashion narrative, which exist as incomplete yet powerful sources.