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Fiction and the Cultural Mediation of Ageing: Reading Diaries
These are the digitised reading diaries collected from the ESRC-funded Fiction and the Cultural Mediation of Ageing Project (FCMAP), which ran from 1 May 2009 until 31 January 2012 at Brunel University London as part of the cross-council New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) programme. The initial FCMAP research questions were concerned with investigating (1) the relationship between cultural representations of, and social attitudes to, ageing and (2) the potential of critical reflection and elective reading by older subjects for engendering new ways of thinking about ageing. As part of the project, eight voluteer reading groups were set up in collaboration with the Third Age Trust, involving 80 volunteers who were in an age range from their early 60s to their 90s.
The volunteers were arranged into reading groups located in the following district associations of the University of the Third Age (U3A): Banstead (which was given the code CBL), Camden Town (OUL), Highgate/North London 1 (NOL), Highgate/North London 2 (HIL), Kingston (KSL), South East London (SEL), Tower Hamlets (THL), and Waterloo (WMC). Over the period of a year (2009-10), all groups read nine nominated novels published from 1944 to the present, a period that corresponded largely with the adult life experiences of participants, and met once a month to discuss each book and the various ageing-related issues arising. The novels were (in order of reading) David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence (2008), Jim Crace’s Arcadia (1992), Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore (2003), Hanif Kureishi’s The Body (2002), Trezza Azzopardi’s Remember Me (2004), Angela Carter’s Wise Children (1991), Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumn (1977), Norah Hoult’s There Were No Windows (1944), and Fay Weldon’s Chalcot Crescent (2009). Groups were allowed to substitute one book from this list with another from a ‘B’ list: Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori (1959), Angus Wilson’s Late Call (1964), Elizabeth Taylor, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremount (1971), Margaret Forster’s The Seduction of Mrs Pendlebury (1974), Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up? (1994), Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother (2006), and Anita Brookner’s Strangers (2009). These novels were chosen to provide a range of contrasting vantage points on later life, and also for the thought-provoking ways in which their presentation might engage and mobilize the readers’ attitudes and assumptions. Reading group members – using a personally allocated code relating to the reading group in which they participated to ensure anonymity – kept diaries recording their responses to each book during and after reading it, and again after the group discussion of the book. In doing the latter most respondents opted generally to reflect upon the other readers’ views and the themes arising from such discussions.
These reading diaries can be found here.