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Ekaterina Alexandrova

2015 WIHR Research Projects

A Fateful Idea: The Representation of Suicide in the Eighteenth-Century French Novel

Funded projects, February 2015

Researcher: Ekaterina Alexandrova

Department: Modern and Classical Languages

The WIHR Individual Research Grant will allow me to spend two months conducting research at the Bibliothèque Nationale Française for my book A Fateful Idea: The Representation of Suicide in the Eighteenth-Century French Novel, which investigates the evolution of the fictional portrayal of self-inflicted death in Enlightenment France. While a scholarly consensus exists on the birth of modern suicide as a critical facet of the Enlightenment, our understanding of this phenomenon has come predominantly from the study of historical and philosophical sources, and remains woefully incomplete. Moreover, neglect of the fictional representations of suicide in eighteenth-century France has also contributed to an inaccurate perception of literary history, since it is generally accepted that suicide was a Romantic preoccupation, inspired in part by Goethe’s Werther. Filling an important gap in scholarly knowledge, my analysis highlights the close connections between the developing novelistic treatment of suicide and philosophical thought on the subject, and ultimately suggests that these depictions indicate ambivalence toward the major social and ideological upheavals of the period. The study of fictional representations of suicide thus provides a vital window to the progression of the crucial transformations wrought by the Enlightenment, which continue to shape us today.

Enlightenment France

Enlightenment France
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