The Sorrows of Young Werther

The aim of the project is to create a typographic interpretation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, written in 1774, in order to highlight one person’s emotional journey that led to his eventual suicide. This book was said to be responsible for a number of copycat suicides so the intention in this digital interpretation is to chart the emotional extremes of the protagonist, giving the reader direct access to particular passages relevant to his changing moods. The overall layout is a graph analysing Werther’s decline.
The timeline layout tracks Werther’s emotions throughout the almost two years that his letters are written during. His letters are broken down into a series of dates and emotions, where the y-axis shows his emotions and the x-axis shows time. Having Werther’s letters on a timeline means that the viewer is presented with the full text of the novel, viewable all at once. Scrolling through, it is possible to see every letter that Werther has written on the timeline. 
The dots graph is based on which emotions, people, and words appeared most in the novel, as a way to navigate and analyse Werther's emotions. All of his letters were run through a word counter in order to get the exact number of times that each word appeared in the text. The dots' size is relative to how often the word appears in his letters. 
The dots reveal the most important themes throughout the novel, and also to try and make sense of Werther’s sometimes confusing emotions. It visualises what, and whom, Werther writes about the most and can thereby help the reader to understand his letters.
The dots can be used as a way of navigating Werther’s emotions. In the timeline view, when the reader hovers over a dot it shows the word. When the reader then clicks on a dot, that word is highlighted throughout the whole timeline of his letters. This way you are able to track and try to understand Werther’s emotions and how they eventually lead to his suicide. Sometimes a word also contains it’s opposite meaning within the context of the letters. For example, when we see the word happy or happiness this is often because Werther is comparing his sadness to others’ happiness.  

Team Credits

Ann-Katrine Johansson

  • Message
  • Graphic Designer

Project Tags

  • book
  • digital book
  • typography
  • Dots
  • app
  • tablet
  • Goethe
  • Words
  • emotions

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