Literary representations of old age range from hagiographic eulogies and laudations to Roman emperors to critical portraits of blind, old beggars, from the topos of the wisdom of age to descriptions of lecherous old seducers. In order to establish any systematic topical or thematic classification, it will be necessary to consider several aspects and textual patterns of aging that seem to recur with high frequency in literary works. To permit a more detailed presentation of evidence than is traditionally cited in a thematic handbook covering many national literatures and diverse periods of time, I will focus on works of Wilhelm Raabe, published between 1862 and 1902, and Thomas Mann's Lotte in Weimar (1939). The restriction is not arbitrary but rather suggested by the high frequency of references to old age in Raabe's narratives and the perfect integration of a typical age pattern within the framework of Mann's novel. For purposes of clarification, it is necessary to distinguish between descriptions of old age that function as detail, motif, or theme.



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