Date of Publication

5-15-2019

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Kristen Proehl, Assistant Professor, English

Abstract

The subject of suicide has been one often removed from or ignored in the historical record. In the rare moment when scholars and popular culture have focused on suicide, it is more due to its promise of death and bloodshed rather than any actual concern to the act and its purposes. As a result, the topic and its cultural connotations have remained largely absent from cultural historiography. However, what little attention that has been paid to the subject of suicide highlights more the perceptions of suicide than the actual act. As with any subject, the manner in which something is perceived by the general population is dependent upon its depictions in cultural documents and vice versa. Specifically, the manner in which cultural documents of a society, such as examples of media, literature, and so on, are reflective of the prevailing attitudes of the period and place. Because of this, the most explicit purpose of this project is to provide a more comprehensive history of perceptions of suicide. Prevailing attitudes regarding suicide have undergone a marked shift between antiquity and now, reflecting fundamental changes in societal perceptions of the act and the relative ethics behind it. Fundamentally, perceptions of suicide have historically fluctuated between complete opposition, wherein the act is regarded as a moral blight, and relative acceptance, where the ethics of the act are pushed aside in favor of sympathy or understanding toward the causes of the act.

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