Storying Alzheimer's disease in Lisa Genova's Still Alice

Sarah Falcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Taking as its starting point the value of literary studies to work on ageing, this paper explores the contribution of literature to the discourse of ageing and illness, focussing on an illness synonymous with ageing in the cultural imagination: Alzheimer’s disease. This is a condition that poses a challenge not only to narrative and meaning-making, but also to the idea of coherent selfhood. The focus of this paper is the popular novel Still Alice, a text praised for its depiction of Alzheimer’s from the perspective of the sufferer. This novel explores the complexity and contradictions of Alzheimer’s disease, ageing and selfhood. It does not always escape the dominant representation of Alzheimer’s as a loss of self that is associated with ageing as decline, but it also contains elements which critique the way Alzheimer’s functions as a metonym for ageing and offers a vision of selfhood that might be called postmodern in its emphasis upon relationality and the fragmented affirmation of self and being. This makes clear that despite the risks – ethical and artistic – in writing dementia and aestheticizing Alzheimer’s, popular fiction has an important part to play in the discourse of dementia. 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-94
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventNew Cultures of Ageing: Narratives, Fictions, Methods & Researching the Future - Brunel University London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Apr 20119 Apr 2011 (Link to Conference Details )


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