Werther's love. Representations of suicide, heroism, masochism, and voluntary self-divestiture

Michael Gratzke (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    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
    Pages (from-to)26-38
    Number of pages13
    JournalPublications of the English Goethe Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


    • Goethe
    • Heroism
    • Masochism
    • Suicide
    • Werther

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Literature and Literary Theory


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