Werther's Love: Representations of Suicide, Heroism, Masochism, and Voluntary Self-Divestiture

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This article examines discourses on suicide in Die Leiden des jungen Werthers in the context of representations of heroism, masochism, and strategies of 'un-becoming' such as Leo Bersani's concept of self-shattering desires and voluntary self-divestiture. It outlines the two imaginary families created in the novel. The first is based on matrilinearity incorporating God, Lotte's deceased mother, and Werther. The second family derives from the male bonding which occurs when the Amtmann and his sons rush to Werther's deathbed. Both families keep the pure potentiality of literature alive, thus undermining Goethe's intention to write a cautionary tale.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublications of the English Goethe Society
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)26-38
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 03.2012