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Alzheimer’s, Ambiguity, and Irony: Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came over the Mountain” and Sarah Polley’s Away from Her

Marlene Goldman, Sarah Powell


By offering an extended close reading of Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came over the Mountain” and Sarah Polley’s filmic adaption of this story, Away from Her, this paper traces the process whereby Munro’s and Polley’s narratives expand our understanding of the Lockean view of identity as “consciousness inhabiting a body.” More precisely, Munro’s and Polley’s texts shed light on Locke’s lesser known insights into the fraught relationship between memory and passions. By underscoring both the passionate, affective and embodied facets of remembering and forgetting and the intersubjective basis of meaning and identity, Munro’s and Polley’s works challenge Locke’s basic conception of an autonomous, rational self. In the process, both the story and the film deconstruct biomedical, mechanistic models by exposing the ironic instabilities and ambiguities associated with the experience of late-onset cognitive decline.

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