Bouncing off Ove: Old men's readings of the novel A Man Called Ove as a cultural representation of ageing masculinity

Linn Sandberg*, Karin Lövgren, Jeff Hearn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years, there has been a rise in portrayals of greying protagonists in popular fiction, often featuring older people in humorous and heart-warming stories. An emerging genre within this literature is the “geezer and grump lit”, a genre where older people are active protagonists, and while often portrayed as grumpy “’usually turn out to have a heart of gold’” (Swinnen, 2019). A notable example of a book in this genre is the internationally bestselling novel A Man Called Ove (2012) by the Swedish author Fredrik Backman. Telling the story of the 59-year-old Ove who sets out to take his own life, the novel can be understood not only as a cultural representation of ageing, but more specifically a cultural representation of ageing masculinity. But how is this popular novel read and responded to by old men themselves? This article builds on a focus group study with Swedish men aged 65–92 who read and discussed A Man Called Ove. The aim of this article is thus to explore how men read the novel and how these readings function as ways of constructing, negotiating and challenging ageing masculinity and the old man as a gendered and aged position. Findings of the study show how discussion of the novel generated a variety of “imaginary positions” through which the participants made sense of what it means to be an old man in contemporary Sweden, including positions such as the active aspiring ageing man, the passive lonely old man, the embodied and vulnerable old man, and the dutiful old man. Future research should explore how other literary genres may provide ways of understanding how old men's gendered and aged subjectivities are constructed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101053
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Aging Studies
ISSN0890-4065
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25.06.2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Keywords

  • 612,2 Literature studies
  • Masculinity
  • Ageing
  • Old men
  • Popular literature
  • Imaginary positions
  • Literature
  • Reading

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising

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