Exploring the Nature of the Dialogical Self: The Young Widow Memoir


  • Katrin Den Elzen Curtin University, Perth, Australia.



Grief, memoir, identity, young widowhood


This paper intends to contribute to the ongoing debate on identity construction by offering a textual analysis of two memoirs that depict the experience of young widowhood: Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson (2014) and When it Rains by Maggie MacKellar (2010). I refer to the texts as young widow memoirs and identify them as a sub-genre of the grief memoir. Drawing on Paul Eakin’s concept of narrative identity and Hubert Hermans’ dialogical self theory, the analysis investigates how the memoirists use narrative to negotiate and represent the multiple subject positions and conflicting voices that arise out of the experience of young widowhood, and how they position selves which existed prior to their loss in relation to their post-loss selves. The memoirs under review are shown to rebuild a relatively stable sense of self out of the multiple voices of loss.




This article was based on a paper presented during the IABA-Europe Conference in 2015. The article was submitted on August 25th and published on April 13th 2017.

Author Biography

Katrin Den Elzen, Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Katrin Den Elzen is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Curtin University in the department of Media, Culture and Creative Arts. This doctorate entails a creative component and an accompanying thesis. The main focus of her work is the young widow memoir, specifically, how memoirists rebuild the fragmented self in the text. She is writing a grief memoir about the illness and loss of her husband and the rebuilding of her life and identity. Her academic articles have appeared in TEXT and Life Writing and her creative work has been anthologised in Europe.