Representations of the human life cycle in literature have varied with time, social conditions and value systems and may be seen as projections of, or deviations from, an 'ideal life'. The cult of childhood, the focus on initiation or conversely aging, life extension and immortality are indicative of what has been valued about life and how life-course models have been shaped according to these ideals. Focusing on how individual literary genres, such as the Bildungsroman, the gothic, science fiction and travel literature deal with the human life cycle, the papers collected in this volume address the following questions: how is life patterned in literature? What mode of narration, perspective or structure is required for the presentation of a particular life course? How do particular life-course models impose certain features onto narratives, and in what way do narrative genres influence our perception of real phenomena? This book sheds light on the poetics of the human life course in different periods and cultural contexts.