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Modern tragedies in self-help literature, blogs and online universes: conceptions of resilience as a literary phenomenon
  1. Louise Folker Christensen1,
  2. Peter Simonsen2,
  3. Anna Paldam Folker3
  1. 1 Copenhagen Centre for Health Research in the Humanities, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2 Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  3. 3 National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna Paldam Folker, National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, 1455 Copenhagen K, Denmark; anpf{at}


Focusing on the configuration of the relationship between fate and freedom of action, this article analyses recent self-help literature and online communities, particularly the genre that centres on the concept of resilience. The selected works and websites all address readers who suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. The article focuses on how the relationship between fate and freedom is represented in three literary figures: the reader, who is promised recovery; the narrator, who promises to save the reader from the mental illnesses; and the plot that the reader forms by his or her personal thoughts, feelings and experiences. Furthermore, fate and freedom will be analysed in a series of allegories and metaphors. We argue that each literary figure reflects a radical understanding of individual autonomy, that is, freedom of action. However, we also argue that each literary figure has a shadowy disadvantage, which activates a tragic reversal of fate. The article analyses how this self-help genre reflects a notion of tragedy in relation to mental suffering.

  • literature and medicine
  • therapeutic writing
  • mental health care
  • philosophy of medicine/health care

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  • Contributors LFC and APF conceived of the presented idea. LFC developed the theory and performed the literary analysis. APF and PS verified the analytical development. APF supervised all stages of this work. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.