Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Advisor/Committee Chair

Jeffrey Berman, Ph.D.


Tragedy is one of writing’s earliest genres, and yet, why do we involve ourselves in the subject and write our own grief for the rest of the world? This thesis explores the act of tackling the subjects of mental illness and bereavement through the use of memoir, and simultaneously to analyze the use of such subject matter in contemporary fiction. Through creating a memoir of my own charting my journey through mental illness, familial death, and suicide, and analyzing the memoirs and works of those who have been through comparable experience, this thesis illuminates how grief is depicted in the written word, as well as the potential such artwork has for beginning the healing process in those who partake in it. Through the analysis of my own memoir, as well as through taking a dive into Dr. Jeffrey Berman’s Mad Muse: The Mental Illness Memoir in a Writer’s Life and Work and Surviving Literary Suicide, along with a case study of William Styron’s Darkness Visible and a partial analysis of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, I hope to paint a picture of what literary grief looks like and how exploratory and transformative literature can have an impact on the mind of the writer. Through the fog of depression, the art of writing can expose us intellectually and emotionally not only to our audience, but to ourselves, be it through fiction or metaphor.