Epistolary Novels Thesis

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Epistolary Novels

The "narrative therapy" was developed by modern psychology as a new tool using one of the oldest habits of the civilized world: letter writing. In the case of literature, "the healing power of art" shifted positions form a catch phrase to a true meaning. The narrative psychotherapy is a relatively new filed of research in psychotherapy that developed scientifically what literature already presented empirically as a form of therapy. Even if presenting the reader with fictional letters, the epistolary novels of the seventeenth and eighteenth century already suggested that letter writing had a therapy like effect on their fictional authors. The letter writing would act like a catharsis in the cases of the letter writer characters in epistolary novels, even if it would not prevent them from ending up in committing suicide.

In his study entitled the Epistolary Novel, Joe Bray emphasizes that he intends to regard this type of novel as "fundamental to the novel's development in increasingly sophisticated ways of representing individual psychology" (the Epistolary Novel, 2). Today they are considered the precursors of the psychological novel.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Epistolary Novels Assignment

An early example of psychotherapy through real letters is that of the world renowned quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the psychiatrist, Karl Jung. The two kept a correspondence over more than two decades. The dilemma of the twentieth century scientist, the ethical problems that arose every step of the way and his own personal dilemmas and traumas, led to the physician seeking professional guidance beyond the cold rationale of scientific methods. His correspondence with Jung helped him explore deeper into his own subconscious, reaching into the world of archetypes. His letters and their response of the psychiatrist succeeded to make him come out of the tower of science he isolated himself in. Pauli was born at the beginning of a century that was to bring dramatic changes in all fields of science, including that dealing with the human mind. From his correspondence with Jung, Pauli benefitted from the latter's expertise as a scientist as well as that of a psychiatrist exploring new methods and treatments in the field of psychoanalysis.

The Sorrows of Young Werther is one of the most renowned novels ever written in the epistolary form that precedes the breakthroughs made in psychotherapy in the twentieth century. The novel is partly autobiographical. It looks like a catharsis for the author himself as well as for the fictional author of the letters: the young Werther. Wilhelm, the recipient of these letters speaks in the novel only through Werther's references to the latter's advices, suggestions and encouragements.

Goethe's novel is written in the sense of the work of a clinician who asked his or her patient to write down his every day experiences and dreams, in the form of a diary. Goethe explained that even if the names and the letters themselves are fictitious, the reactions, thoughts and experiences are taken from real persons (including himself). Being twenty-four when he wrote the book, Goethe used mainly his own experiences as well as those of a close friend who committed suicide because of a tragic love affair. The book certainly did have a strong impact on contemporary as well as on future audiences that were able to identify themselves with at least one particular aspect of Werther's life.

The reader is presented with a young man who seems to lie down on a psychotherapist's sofa and recollect his recent memories from a vacation he spent in the countryside.

Werther's friend, the receiver of his letters, seems to approve and encourage his idea of passing time away from the madding crowd, enjoying the new environment and avoiding tormenting thoughts, as much as possible. The letter Werther is writing on the 14th of May is showing that Wilhelm is not only very close to him, but that he also knows Werther very well: "My friend, need I tell you all this, you, whom I have so often burdened with the sight of my transitions from grief to excessive joy, from sweet melancholy to fatal passion. I treat my poor heart, moreover, as though it were a sick child, and satisfy all its desires. Do not tell this to anyone; there are those who would strongly disapprove" (Wain, the Oxford Library of Short Novels, Vol 1, Goethe, the Sorrwos of Young Werther, 6).

At the beginning, Werther's letters alternate in outbursts of joy and deep moments of sadness. He is often in a contemplative or a deeply meditative mood. Some other time, he is observing people around him and especially children and having a good time at it. He describes children as being often attracted to him. This pleases and puzzles him at the same time, thus making him keen to find what exactly in his character appeals to children so much. This predisposition to introspection is characteristic of the activity of writing down ones experiences. The interaction with others is encouraged by the predisposition to analysis and self-analysis.

Freedman and Combs write about their own revelations in the field of therapy through tales telling due to Erickson's "teaching tales." Erickson's solution for therapy was aimed at "expanding and enriching people's stories about themselves" (Narrative Therapy, 10).

Werther's letters are converging to a point where he seems to be eager to expand his field of knowing himself through his interactions with others and his response to them. In this case, he is having a dialogue with himself. In other cases, the dialogue simulates a discussion with Wilhelm, with Werther evoking possible answers his firend would give him to his observations and conclusions. As he is advancing in his letter writing to his friend, Werther keeps reminding him and maybe himself that he is writing to a person who knows him better than most others. The hand who writes these letters is belonging to the extremely sensitive nature of an artist. This added a new dimension to his way of processing everything. For example, when he describes his encounter with a highly emotional scene in the village of Wahlheim, he succeeds in communicating exactly what he felt at that particular moment. His words are simple, but as powerful as his hands in depicting it.

Werther's observations and deductions are reminding of Rousseau's Confessions, in their in depth analysis of a sensitive character's reaction to every exterior stimulus. Rousseau's "state of nature" is appealing to young Werther in the vicinity of what appears to be the less corrupt nature possible: children growing up surrounded by nature.

The 16 the of June comes with a letter that announces a crossroad in young Werther's life. He begins his letter by acknowledging that people usually do not write letters when they are in the heat of a passion, feeling overly happy and satisfied. The reader understands that between May 30 and June 16, the young man was completely subjugated by the events in his life and thus prevented from going on with his usual correspondence routine: "It is not easy for me to tell you, in chronological order, just how it happened, how I met such a lovely being. I am contented and happy, and therefore not a good historian" (Wain, the Oxford Library of Short Novels, Vol 1, Goethe, the Sorrwos of Young Werther, 14).

Werther needs to share the news with his best friend. At the same time, by recollecting the last days, he is sorting out through his own feelings and emotions. In the true style of romanticism, Lotte, the young girl Werther fell in love with, is the very image of beauty, simplicity, kindness, brightness and common sense at once. The lack of flaws is characteristic for the romantic period, but it is also the sign of the first impressions on a freshly seeded love. Werther himself has observed at some point in his letters that the eyes of a lover may see the object of love quite differently than others. Moreover, he is recording various episodes that seem like hints for the foolish way he allowed himself to be subjugated by an impossible love. His story of a young peasant and the woman he fell in love with is one of these. Werther comments on his immediately repressed impulse to see the object of such exulted feelings at once. He becomes aware of the difference in opinion when it comes to the same object of contemplation, therefore he decides to keep the image described by the man who loved her in mind instead of getting acquainted with the image he himself might build of the same woman. However, he cannot keep the same objective sense of analysis when it comes to his own passion for Lotte.

From the point when Werther meets Lotte, his letters will almost incessantly and obsessively speak of his feelings for her. It becomes an obsession which seems at first harmless and only natural for any young and sensitive creature. Unfortunately, as he continues to write about his spending time in the village, it becomes obvious that his admiration… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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