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Narratives of loss and mourning in contemporary French women’s writing: Marie Nimier, Camille Laurens and Annie Ernaux

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Contemporary French women’s writing has been marked by a proliferation of texts on the experience of loss. This thesis seeks to argue that the process of mourning in the works of Marie Nimier, Annie Ernaux and Camille Laurens situates itself in excess of a Freudian understanding of Trauerarbeit as a finite process. I suggest that the Freudian paradigm is a reductive, rather than a productive means of conceptualizing mourning. I argue that the recurrence of the grieved other Other under different facets in the works of the three authors selected is not symptomatic of a melancholic pathology but is an expression of the experience of mourning itself as a process whose very nature undergoes change. I seek to formulate an understanding of prolonged mourning outside of the pathological sphere of melancholia and investigate the experience of loss through a hauntological framework. I thus contend that writing is a paradoxical site of negotiation which seeks to convey the experience of loss whilst signalling the limitations of its expression. I suggest that death events generate and install a fracture within the corpus of the authors selected, altering their generic choices through significant narratological shifts. Perinatal loss motivates Camille Laurens’s adoption of an autofictional mode of writing under the term écriture de soi, while parental loss leads Annie Ernaux to adopt a starker style, her now trademark écriture plate. Marie Nimier’s works are traversed by the pivotal experience of paternal loss at a young age which precedes the start of her writing career and which subsequently haunts her work, installing internal fissures. This thesis will thus address the means through which the experience of loss and mourning permeates the works of these three authors and trace its impact on their identity as well as their generic and narratological choices.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Feb 2018

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