W. G. Sebald - A Critical Companion

J. J. Long and Anne Whitehead

  • Published: 2004
  • Subject Listing: Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 256 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: Av In Us / Can / Jpn / Kpr / China / Tai
  • Series: Literary Conjugations
  • Contents

Likened to Proust, Gunter Grass, and Virginia Woolf, W. G. Sebald (1944-2001) is one of the most important writers of our time, combining a wide readership with universal critical acclaim. Sebald's refracted and sometimes alienated views of both his native Germany and his adopted English homeland have had astonishing resonance in the German- and English-speaking worlds. In this first collection to appear in English, newly commissioned essays by leading international scholars offer interdisciplinary perspectives on Sebald's work, providing a thorough assessment of his achievement.

Sebald's texts deal with issues that lie at the very heart of contemporary culture: memory, exile, identity, representation, history, the Holocaust. His texts are hybrid in nature, mixing fiction, biography, historiography, travel writing, and memoir, and incorporating numerous photographic images. In response to this, W. G. Sebald: A Critical Companion focuses on the key areas of travel, intertextuality, nature, and memory.

Introductory chapters situate Sebald's work within the European literary tradition and within contemporary critical discourse. Individual chapters then draw on approaches from cultural and literary studies, including ecocriticism, trauma theory, and text-image studies, in order to explore aspects of Sebald's dazzling oeuvre. A comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources rounds off the volume, which will satisfy a growing need for a high-quality and up-to-date guide to Sebald's work for an English-speaking readership. The interdisciplinary nature of the Companion means that it will appeal not only to students and critics working on Sebald, but to anyone interested in contemporary culture.
J. J. Long is senior lecturer in German at the University of Durham, UK, and is the author of The Novels of Thomas Bernhard. Anne Whitehead is lecturer in contemporary literature and theory at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and is the author of Trauma Fiction. Other contributors include Maya Barzilai, John Beck, Greg Bond, Jan Ceuppens, Carolin Duttlinger, Russell Kilbourn, Martin Klebes, Massimo Leone, Colin Riordan, Martin Swales, George Szirtes, Simon Ward, Wilfried Wilms, and John Zilcosky.

"Sebald demonstrates that literature can be, literally, indispensable. He was one by whom literature continues to live."
-Susan Sontag

"W. G. Sebald is a monster - a gorgeous and unwaveringly assured writer, a bold formal innovator, and a man always plunging into the core of identity."
-Dave Eggers

"W. G. Sebald: A Critical Companion is an important collection of essays that illuminates the crucial contributions of Sebald's work. These astute and critically reflective essays, intelligently organized and introduced, provide a wide-ranging consideration of the literary innovation and intellectual complexity of Sebald's explorations of history, culture and memory. The collection also highlights, through highly sophisticated and subtle readings that bring together trauma studies, psychoanalysis, and poststructuralist thought, the broad significance of Sebald's provocative engagement with the traumatic histories of WWII and its aftermath."
-Cathy Caruth

A Note on References and Translations
W. G. Sebald Chronology
Part I: Contexts
1. Introduction - J. J. Long and Anne Whitehead
2. Meeting Austerlitz - George Szirtes
3. Theoretical Reflections on the Work of W. G. Sebald - Martin Swales
Part II: Landscape and Nature
4. On the Misery of Nature and the Nature of Misery: W. G. Sebald's Landscapes - Greg Bond
5. Econcentrism in Sebald's After Nature - Colin Riordan
6. Ruins and Poetics in the Works of W. G. Sebald - Simon Ward
Part III: Travel and Walking
7. Reading Room: Erosion and Sedimentation in Sebald's Suffolk - John Beck
8. Textual Wanderings: A Vertiginous Reading of W. G. Sebald - Massimo Leone
9. Sebald's Uncanny Travels: The Impossibility of Getting Lost - John Zilcosky
Part IV: Intertextuality and Intermediality
10. Infinite Journey: From Kafka to Sebald - Martin Klebes
11. Architecture and Cinema: The Representation of Memory in W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz - Russell J. A. Kilbourn
12. Traumatic Photographs: Remembrance and the Technical Media in W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz - Carolin Duttlinger
Part V: Haunting, Trauma, Memory
13. Taboo and Repression in W. G. Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction - Wilfried Wilms
14. Seeing Things: Spectres and Angels in W. G. Sebald's Prose Fiction - Jan Ceuppens
15. Facing the Past and the Female Spectre in W. G. Sebald's The Emigrants - Maya Barzilai
Notes on Contributors