Care and connection in contemporary, parental récits de deuil

  • Jordan Owen McCullough

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis seeks to make a critical intervention at the intersections of French literary and cultural studies, death and bereavement studies and the Medical Humanities, in order to establish a fuller picture of the role that writing can play in continuing a bond with a deceased child and in establishing a dynamic of care. Drawing on a corpus of predominantly parent-authored grief narratives by Brigitte Barbier, Bernard Chambaz, Marie-Axelle and Benoit Clermont, Max Derhy, Anne Dodemant, Marie Darrieussecq, Philippe Forest, Pierre Jourde, Camille Laurens, Patrick and Véronique Poivre d'Arvor, Georges Salines, Francis Van de Woestyne and Patricia Vergauwen, the thesis argues that the central motivation for parental grief writing is, more often than not, a desire for connection with the deceased child. It then suggests that, by virtue of its atemporality, the text has the potential to generate this connection and facilitate a form of continuing bond between parent and child; that such a continuing bond affords the author, the child and the reader the opportunity to give and receive textual care; and that the manifestations of said care will differ according to the circumstances of the child's death. By engaging with the entangled possibilities of disciplinary boundary crossing, the thesis seeks to inscribe literature within the broader framework of Continuing Bonds, while also moving beyond the mere establishment of the bond to consider its outworking and what is given and received through it, by means of the text. The thesis thus advocates for a productive entangling of disciplinary knowledge, which recognises the rich contribution of the (Medical) Humanities to a deeper understanding of individual and collective experiences of death, grief and mourning, centred around a relationality that transcends the limits of tangibility and offers life-giving and life-enriching care to all those who experience it.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 July 2026.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsAHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorSteven Wilson (Supervisor) & Rosalind Silvester (Supervisor)


  • Contemporary French Literature
  • grief studies
  • continuing bonds
  • relationality
  • care studies

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