Dementia in the minds of characters and readers
Paula Devine and Gemma Carney (ARK Ageing Programme) are collaborating with Dr Jane Lugea, a Lecturer in English Language at Queen’s University Belfast to explore the potential of fiction featuring characters with dementia to improve awareness of and empathy towards people living with the condition. The research has been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career Research Grant and runs from May 2020 to October 2021.
This project explores the representation of dementia in contemporary fiction, using a cognitive stylistic approach to reveal how the minds of characters with the condition are constructed in language. Extracts from the fiction are then used in Reading Groups with four key stakeholder groups: people in the early stages of dementia, caregivers, trainee social workers and general public. The readers’ responses to the fiction will establish the potential of dementia fiction to facilitate awareness and empathy, as well as feed back into our understanding of the literary language and its cognitive effects.
By appointing fiction writer and programmer of older people’s arts projects Jan Carson as Outreach Officer and by working with dementia charities and the Northern Ireland Museums Council, this project has impact built in to its design and delivery.