This post has been written by Dariusz Galasiński, who is Professor at the University of Wolverhampton and Visiting Professor at the Uniwersytet SPWS in Warsaw. He is a linguist interested in psychiatry and psychology and their discourses. He blogs here. In this post, he presents his new book on discursive constructions of the suicide process.
My book is founded on a contradiction. Suicide and masculinity do not and cannot sit together easily. Suicide is stigmatised, and people who killed themselves are often thought to be weak and cowardly. Masculinity is anything but this. Its dominant model constructs men as strong ‘masters of the universe’. My book explores a number of resulting paradoxes.
1. The first paradox has to do with constructions of suicide. Even though suicide is constructed as a rational gift, it is not spoken of directly. The positive gift is outside discourse. For as the notes construct men as 'defenders' of the family (to which their suicide is constructed to contribute), they cannot construct themselves as committing suicide.
Even though suicide brings an end to a person’s life, the notes constructed it as non-final. Promises of continuing love, or meeting in the future were put together with friends’ brief farewells. Moreover, many notes were written from the future perspective, i.e. in time when the writing person is already dead. Life continues in the notes.
2. Paradoxically, the authors of the notes do not write as men. Masculinity was consistently diluted by being a husband/partner or a father. At the same time, however, it is the dominant model of masculinity which allows men to adopt speaking positions from which to issue sometimes very direct and brusque instructions. Moreover, the men position themselves as present in their families' lives also after killing themselves.
3. The note itself is invariably represented as special, and yet, can we imagine a more dramatic and special message? And while suicide is constructed to be rational, the notes are represented as difficult to write. You could argue that it is the construction of the note itself which shows suicide as, shall I say, 'it really is'.