Adventures of the Spirit

The Older Woman in the Works of Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, and Other Contemporary Women Writers

Edited by Phyllis Sternberg Perrakis


Literature and Criticism/American and Canadian
321 pp. 6x9

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Table of Contents


“Adventures of the Spirit enters into the critical conversation on literature of aging with Kathleen Woodward, Anne Wyatt-Brown, Margaret Morganroth Gullette, and a host of other feminist scholars and critical gerontologists. The individual contributions are compelling and together the collection will significantly add to the fields of literary gerontology, literary criticism, and women’s studies.” —Barbara Frey Waxman, professor of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington

“There should be a sizeable and varied audience for Adventures of the Spirit. As baby boomers age, the interest in works that interrogate previous scripts on aging for women can only increase. Phyllis Perrakis, an experienced and well-respected scholar, builds on this body of work by focusing on issues of women’s aging in well-known novels by Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood as well as in works by lesser-known women writers” —Christine Sizemore, professor of English, Spelman College

In Adventures of the Spirit, Phyllis Sternberg Perrakis brings together eleven American and Canadian “literary gerontologists” to examine a new kind of adventure for the older woman in literature. This volume of critical essays analyzes recent works by contemporary women writers whose characters’ midlife and later life changes are mapped in their narratives.

Rather than focusing on the painful losses undergone by women of a certain age, recent narratives explore a new kind of adventure of aging, one that is spiritual in nature, enabling new ways of being and becoming, but open-ended and capable of great variation in practice. In particular, these journeys of the spirit focus on the retrospective movement undergone by a midlife or older woman as she is led by inner or outer forces to assess where she has come from and decipher a shape or pattern to her journey.

These journeys do not leave the body behind as they map new spiritual territory. Rather they honor spirit’s embrace of the natural world and relationships as well as its aspirations for evolving development and eternal existence.

The essays in Adventures of the Spirit employ a wide variety of critical lenses to chart these adventures, including archetypal, Sufi, post-colonial, and feminist analysis; archival research; aboriginal life writing; and trauma theory. These studies bring a new understanding to women’s adventure of age in both literary texts and in life.

Phyllis Sternberg Perrakis is a part-time professor of English at the University of Ottawa and is a co-editor of Doris Lessing Studies.