Self-Sacrifice between Constraint and Redemption: Gertrud von Le Fort’s The Song at the Scaffold

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


    It would be easy to dismiss the theme of this book, Die Letzte am Schafott,
    as no more than an expression of a Catholic triumphant attitude. During the
    French revolution, possessions of convents were confiscated and whoever
    resisted was sentenced to death and executed under the guillotine. The French
    Revolution would be no more than a demonstration of the barbarous attitude
    of the idolatry of Reason over against the devotion to true faith. The story, however,
    goes far deeper than that. This becomes clear when we focus on two of
    the main characters: Two young girls, strongly differing in temperament and
    background; and two spiritual leaders in the convent diametrically opposed
    to one another. We will note that the story contains a sharp criticism of traditional
    Catholic ideas about self-sacrifice and martyrdom. Simultaneously, the
    story offers a passionate picture of true martyrdom, which can only be reached
    by acknowledging existential fear and a deep love of life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSacrifice in modernity: community, ritual, identity
    Subtitle of host publicationFrom Nationalism and Nonviolence to Health Care and Harry Potter
    EditorsJoachim Duyndam, Anne-Marie Korte, Marcel Poorthuis
    Place of PublicationLeiden
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Print)9789004332065
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

    Publication series

    NameStudies in Theology and Religion
    ISSN (Print)1566-208X


    • Sacrifice
    • autonomy
    • modernity


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