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Wilson, E., Jr. (1991). Psyche. XL, 1986: Family Scenes: Goethe's Fantasy World and the Construction of the Novel Werther. Peter Fischer. Pp. 527-556.. Psychoanal Q., 60:170.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psyche. XL, 1986: Family Scenes: Goethe's Fantasy World and the Construction of the Novel Werther. Peter Fischer. Pp. 527-556.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 60:170

Psyche. XL, 1986: Family Scenes: Goethe's Fantasy World and the Construction of the Novel Werther. Peter Fischer. Pp. 527-556.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

Fischer reviews past critics who have attempted to understand Goethe's Werther, and disparages their failure to see in its love story a depiction of Goethe's psychological conflicts. He suggests that Werther is a novel about childhood conflicts, and the story of the love for Lotte is a story about Goethe's love for his mother. He supports this with numerous textual citations which, he believes, indicate this as Goethe's own view of the work. The novel depicts a regression in fantasy to maternal love, in what Freud was to call "oceanic feelings." Nature and mother are equated. The theological interpretations, in which Werther is supposed to have renounced the old religious beliefs and the old God, as some critics have seen, fail to realize that setting up Lotte as a new God is, psychoanalytically, the worship of the powerful mother figure from the past, as Lotte becomes a figure on which Werther is totally dependent. He loses himself in helplessness, powerlessness, and disintegration of the self, and in his voluntary death rejoins nature/mother. Passages in the text make clear Werther's ambivalence about Lotte, and his longing for the early paradisiacal situation in a symbiotic mother-child relationship. Fischer suggests the notion of a personal myth to understand Goethe's situation here. To understand the figure of Lotte has been the aim and effort of much of Werther criticism, and the source of many difficulties. Some, for example Rank and Eissler, have suggested that she represents Goethe's sister, Cornelia. Goethe is dealing with his incestuous attachment to her, as well as with his resentment of her as intruding into the paradise he enjoyed with his mother before Cornelia's birth. The attempts to see in Werther a hero inspired by the French Revolution fail to understand the deeply regressive action involved in the suicide, with the preservation of the attachment to the mother, and to the "nobility" and ancien regime she unconsciously represented to Goethe.

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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1991). Psyche. XL, 1986. Psychoanal. Q., 60:170

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