'The power and potentiality of grief objects: writing grief memoir from personal possessions and archives' & 'Spooling the Yarn'

Author: Marina Deller

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 24 Mar 2026.

Deller, Marina, 2023 'The power and potentiality of grief objects: writing grief memoir from personal possessions and archives' & 'Spooling the Yarn', Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This research investigates the overlap of grief memoir and object-based narratives and considers the construction and impacts of such texts. Through creation and analysis of a grief memoir, Spooling the Yarn, and a research exegesis I demonstrate that personal objects and archives hold power and potentialities which can be harnessed to write narratives of loss. I draw on scholarship from life writing, creative writing, material studies, death studies, psychology, and museum studies to argue that ‘material grief memoirs’ are a vigorous and useful literary avenue to interrogate and represent grief.

I firstly examine the cultural practice of ‘decluttering’ and position it within my own experience and the experience of loss. I ask questions regarding the power of the objects we treasure or endure and the narrative risks of discarding. I then propose a ‘toolkit’ for writing grief memoir from the objects which remain. I adopt and adapt museum and arts-based object-based learning methodologies and apply them through life writing frameworks. I argue that engaging with personal objects and archives while narrating loss helps us tap into key elements of life writing like memory, truth, and identity. I also argue that personal possessions help us forge narrative-rich continued bonds with lost loved ones. Finally, I argue that material grief memoirs – including Spooling the Yarn – can be read as archives in order to interrogate the curation of grief objects through literature, and the new meanings that these collections create. I discuss the tensions between materiality and immateriality when grieving and posit that the integration of imaginative objects and archival forms can help address this.

Throughout this work I examine my own creative practice, memories, and personal possessions to draw attention to the materiality of loss and address the ‘messy’ nature of grief through crafted, coherent life writing, based on objects and archives.

Keywords: life writing, grief writing, object-based learning, material narratives

Subject: Creative Arts thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2023
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Professor Kate Douglas