Old Age in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Neglected Topic. Ed. Albrecht Classen (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture, 2). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007. Pp. 575. Cloth 98.00
The study of the history of ageing and attitudes to the old is of more than academic interest. One of the merits of this wide-ranging and thought-provoking volume is its willingness to engage with our present anxieties and assumptions as it offers new points of focus from a wide cultural and temporal perspective. We seem to want the past to provide clear exempla positive ones showing that previous generations hold the key to dignified ageing; negative ones that assure us we are doing better. These essays offer no such easy encouragement; from late antiquity to the renaissance, the medieval past was a changing, ambivalent and confused place in which to be old or indeed to depict, in literature or art, the nature of age.