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Type: Theses
Title: Melancholic things
Author: Arguile, Katherine Tamiko
Issue Date: 2016
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: “The Things She Owned” is a work of literary fiction in the genre of the grief narrative. The interwoven stories of Michiko and Eriko, a mother and daughter, follow Michiko’s life from her wartime childhood in Tokyo to early adulthood, and Erika’s, after her mother’s death, in contemporary London. Erika has not dealt with an urn containing some of Michiko’s bones, nor with other things once owned by her mother, all of which sit untouched and hidden in a dusty cabinet. The arrival of her Japanese cousin Kei forces Erika to confront the difficult feelings stirred up by the sight of these objects. Each section of the narrative from Erika’s life is prefaced by an ekphrastic description of objects that once belonged to Michiko; the things appear within the body of the narrative, each playing a different role in reflecting Erika’s sense of identity in relation to the death of her mother. Some are relics, some represent fossilised grief; others are catalysts for Erika’s transforming identity. A military academy ring found in a secret cabinet drawer prompts Erika to travel to Okinawa to find the man she discovers is her real father. There, she has an accident climbing to a waterfall and her rapidly changing internal world becomes apparent. The exegetical component of this thesis examines the role played by objects in fictional grief narratives and how they illustrate identity reconstruction of a protagonist that has suffered traumatic loss. Acknowledging that traumatic loss shatters the world view of the bereaved, requiring a re-ordering and reconstruction of a new identity to help find new meaning in a forever-changed world, this exegesis seeks to fill a gap in research, exploring the way objects can be used as markers to reflect the different stages through which the bereaved progress through a process of identity reconstruction. The exegesis suggests a new schema for the analysis of objects and their changing roles in grief narratives by combining findings from the research of Margaret Gibson — into the way the bereaved relate to the objects of the dead — with thing theory, bereavement theory and psychoanalytical research, particularly incorporating ideas on the transitional or cathexic object. For the purposes of this thesis, Siri Hustvedt’s novel, What I Loved, is read closely alongside “The Things She Owned” to demonstrate the application of the suggested schema. The exegesis will also examine how using the real in fiction — real objects, in the case of “The Things She Owned” — helped to mitigate difficult feelings that arose during the writing process. It also addresses a perceived yearning for authenticity, epitomized by a surge in the popularity of grief narratives, in an age of rapidly-consumed multimedia and shallow sensationalism.
Advisor: Hosking, Susan Elizabeth
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2016.
Keywords: creative writing
objects in fiction
grief narratives
objects of grief
object-inspired fiction
melancholic objects
objects in grief narratives
Description: Vol. 1 The Things She Owned : Major Work -- v. 2 Objects as Markers for Identity Transformation in Fictional Grief Narratives : Exegesis
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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