Photo of Sara Jamieson

Sara Jamieson

Associate Professor

Degrees:B.A., M.A. (University of Toronto), Ph.D. (Queen’s University)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2431
Office:1819 Dunton Tower

My research and teaching are situated within the field of age studies, which seeks to redress the marginalization of aging in humanities-based scholarship by stressing intersections of age with other forms of difference such as class, race, gender, and sexuality. In the context of a contemporary culture that prizes longevity but fears and denigrates aging and older people, I share with other age-studies scholars a commitment to literature as a form of cultural production that can ascribe value and complexity to older characters and envision what literary scholars Valerie Barnes Lipscomb and Aagje Swinnen call “age-just futures”. In line with age studies’ prioritization of the links among aging, disability, and care, much of my research and teaching has focused on representations of long-term care in contemporary texts that articulate a critique of the forms that care takes in such spaces while also imagining new possibilities for what it could be like.

My current research participates in extending the parameters of literary age studies beyond the later reaches of the life course by attending to fictional representations of middle age in the work of a range of authors writing in Canada from the 1960s to the present including Margaret Laurence, Richard B. Wright, Alice Munro, Carol Shields, Joe Ollmann, and Ann-Marie MacDonald. More specifically, I am interested in these authors’ fictional engagements with the “midlife crisis” as one of twentieth-century Western culture’s best known and widely shared narratives of middle age. Accounts of the genesis of the midlife crisis as an idea that rose to cultural prominence in the 1960s and 70s tend to characterize it as a period of psychic turmoil and depressive anxiety triggered by the [male] midlife subject’s newly urgent awareness of aging and mortality and manifesting in a sense of disillusionment with both work and family life. By contrast, the fictional worlds created by Canadian authors of the period highlight midlife crises experienced by both men and women, crises that have less to do with anxieties about personal finitude than with cultural, social, and economic factors such as the precarities affecting aging workers within a system of global capitalism, the expectations placed on the nuclear family as a life-long source of personal fulfillment and domestic happiness, and the prejudice against the no-longer-young that accompanied the rise of youth culture. Previous studies of midlife in literature have been reluctant to address the midlife crisis, possibly because its associations with discontent, regret, and failure threaten to reinforce a persistent and stigmatizing perception of aging as decline. By contrast, I argue that textual representations can also show us the generative, transformative potential of the midlife crisis as a site from which to recognize, question, and resist the concepts of decline and progress, success and succession, that are at the heart of (hetero)normative conceptions of individual aging and generational time in settler-colonialist, capitalist societies.

Recent Publications

“Crises of Queer Midlife in Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Adult Onset.” University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 93, no. 2, 2024. forthcoming.

“and I may mutate into a matriarch”: Aging, Crisis, and Speculative Fiction in Margaret Laurence’s The Fire-Dwellers.”  Studies in Canadian Literature vol. 48, no. 2, 2023. forthcoming.

“Comics, Middle Age, and Second Adolescence: Joe Ollmann’s Mid-Life.” Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 53, No. 2, 2020, pp. 473-98.

“Picturing Midlife: Aging and the Limits of Narrative in Carol Shields’ Larry’s Party.”  Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal  No. 4, 2019.

“Ethics and Infant Feeding in Alice Munro’s Stories.” Ethics and Affects in the Fiction of Alice Munro. Edited by Amelia DeFalco and Lorraine York, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018. 13-33.

“Alice Munro and the Memorized Poem.” Alice Munro’s Miraculous Art: Critical Essays. Ed. Janice Fiamengo and Gerald Lynch. University of Ottawa Press, 2017. 79-95.

“Reading the ‘St. Louis Whirligig’: Hockey, Masculinity, and Aging in Paul Quarrington’s King LearyJournal of Canadian Studies 48.3 (2014): 181-199.

“Reading the Spaces of Age in Alice Munro’s ‘The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 47.3 2014. 1-17.

“‘Surprising Developments’: Midlife in Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are?Canadian Literature 217 (2013): 54-71.

“Joan Barfoot’s Exit Lines and the Pastoral of Old Age.” American Review of Canadian Studies 42.2 (2012): 370-83.

Recent Presentations

“‘Iona’s Arms’: Infant Feeding and ‘Bonding’ in Alice Munro’s ‘My Mother’s Dream.” ACQL Annual Conference, University of Calgary, May 28-30, 2016.

“Reading the St. Louis Whirligig: Hockey, Masculinity, and Aging in Paul Quarrington’s King Leary.” ACQL Annual Conference, May 30-June 2 2015, University of Ottawa.

“Alice Munro and the Memorized Poem.” The Alice Munro Symposium, May 9-11 2014, University of Ottawa.