ITI Lethica Fall Graduate School : the representations of old age (cinema, literature, theater, art history...)

Past event

September 26-28th 2023

26 28 September 2023
9h 18h

After the 2021 and 2022 editions, the next ITI Lethica Fall Graduate School, organized by Corinne Grenouillet and Kenza Jernite, will take place on September 26th through the 28th 2023 at the MISHA. This event will be an opportunity to question the representations of old age through different arts, in connection with the four research axes of Lethica:

  • Triage: The question of triage of the elderly was restated with particular acuity during the COVID-19 crisis. The sociologist Juliette Rennes, while recognizing the necessity of sorting in the emergency, invites for example to question the choices and conditions of production that created the need for sorting. The historian Mathilde Rossigneux-Méheust, who is interested in old people in hospices in the twentieth century, shows that the sorting of the elderly has a long history, by looking at the disciplinary instruments that made it possible to sort until the 1980s the "good" from the "bad" old.
  • Moral revolutions: Several recent fictions of anticipation (literature, cinema, theater...), by inventing futures that could result from our current choices (but also from our non choices), invite us to rethink the way we treat our elderly. Several dystopias thus ask what consequences there might be to thinking of this age group primarily in terms of "cost" or "weight" for the richest societies. These fictions feed a debate on the end of life, revived by the promise of the current government to quickly legislate on the issue. For example, several doctors' voices have been raised to regret the abandonment of the law on old age, asking that the (good) life of the elderly be taken care of before dealing with their death.
  • Transparency and secrecy: The invisibilization of certain aspects of aging, deplored for example by the journalist Victor Castanet in his shocking investigation on EHPADs, is opposed by a hypervisibilization of certain aspects of old age: witness the explosion in the number of films and shows on the subject (more than a dozen shows in France for the year 2022-2023 alone, and almost as many films over the last two years). These films and shows most often focus on the most spectacular aspects of old age: Alzheimer's, dementia, incontinent bodies... The question then arises of understanding what we decide to show as well as what we decide to hide, and why.
  • Caring: The question of the representation of the elderly immediately raises, as its counterpart, that of the representation of those who take care of them and accompany them in this last age of life, and who are often even more invisibilized. What about the representation of these caregivers, helpers and companions in works of fiction? Is there a history (literary, theatrical) of the caregiver?


Report and videos of the event (in French)


Arianne Clément, a Quebec photographer specialising in 'senior photography', has graciously given us permission to use this mirror portrait of a centenarian woman to illustrate the LETHICA autumn school on the subject of 'Representations of old age' (26-28 September 2023).
In her album 100 ans, âge de beauté, from which this work is taken (viewable at this link), Arianne Clément wanted to highlight the 'beauty rituals' of very old women. To produce this series of portraits, she met around ten centenarians who agreed to be photographed, including Anne-Marie Pronovost, in Sutton (Quebec, 2016). "Beauty concerns me more today than when I was young. I like to be fairly well dressed," she told the photographer. For this remarkable photograph, A. Clément won the North American "Regards sur notre monde" grand prize in March 2017, rewarded with a photo expedition by boat in the Arctic worth $24,000.
All our thanks to her.

Corinne Grenouillet and Kenza Jernite, organisers

To discover Arianne Clément's work, see this first page and this second page on Facebook, as well as her website.