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W.G. Sebald, the Writing of History

Résumé : History, both in thematic presentation and in theoretical questioning, was an essential concern for German-language author W.G. Sebald and has emerged as a point of crystallization in the vast array of scholarship on Sebald. The volume under review offers the latest manifestation of this historical focus. The collection of eleven articles, to which many well-known players in the field of Sebald research have contributed, continues ongoing discussions but also shows how environmental, economic, and political issues relate to history in Sebald's works. What helps set this current volume apart is Long's valuable bibliographical essay, in which he considers over one hundred individual works (articles and books) by some eighty scholars written over the past fifteen years. While indicating the breadth of Sebald scholarship and providing an orientation among the main areas of research, Long reviews primarily research of the last five years and refrains from explicitly evaluating each individual contribution. Yet the selection itself provides an implicit judgment; Long highlights, for example, the work of his co-editor Anne Fuchs and several authors present in this and other edited volumes. Long acknowledges the predictable and repetitive nature of recent criticism (28), certainly in part an inevitable result of the relatively short timeframe in which the Sebald boom and the proliferation of overlapping publications occurred. Six contributions in this volume deal with the broader scope of history presented in Die Ringe des Saturn, moving the volume's focus away from the particular historical event of the Holocaust, around which much research on both Die Ausgewanderten and Austerlitz centers. Furthermore, the contributions in this volume develop the topographical dimension of Sebald's view of history, via a broader discussion of the "spatialisation of history" (Mary Cosgrove, 108) and narrower investigations of landscapes and seascapes. Through a detailed analysis of select paintings in Die Ringe des Saturn, Fuchs builds upon the well-established connection between melancholy and nature in Sebald's writing to explore "the historical and aesthetic depth of Sebald's landscapes" (122). Helen Finch focuses on landscape, both figuratively with a spatial metaphor ("landscape" of the prose, 179, 181) and literally with Sebald's treatment of landscape both in his essays on Peter Handke and in his own literary texts. Russell J.A. Kilbourn and Maya Barzilai explore the particular role seascapes play in Die Ringe des Saturn, and both authors rely on Hans Blumenberg's Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer in their investigations of this aspect of Sebald's view of history.
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Submitted on : Friday, December 10, 2021 - 6:09:14 AM
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Emmanuelle Loyer, Jean-Marc Dreyfus. W.G. Sebald, the Writing of History. Emmanuelle Loyer; Jean-Marc Dreyfus. European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, 2012. ⟨hal-03473911⟩

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