On reading Sebald criticism: witnessing the text
Author: Crownshaw, Richard
Source: Journal of Romance Studies, Volume 9, Number 3, Winter 2009 , pp. 10-22(13)
Publisher: Berghahn Journals
Abstract:This article discusses trends in literary theories of trauma and how their influence can be felt in criticism of the work of W. G. Sebald. Such criticism tends to find in the disruptive interplay of verbal and pictorial discourses, typical of Sebald's work, textual aporias that reflect traumatic interruptions of the cultural remembrance of the extremes of modernity in general and the Holocaust in particular. Tracing literary criticism that focuses on Sebald's use of photographic images in Austerlitz, this article argues that such criticism veers towards treating the text as the unmediated inscription of a traumatic interruption, and suggests that, rather than finding trauma in the text, Sebald's work provokes such critical responses in order to revoke them, revealing not trauma but theoretical formulae for trauma. Sebald's work thereby frustrates attempts to experience vicariously the trauma of Holocaust victims that his novel represents.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: Winter 2009
- Journal of Romance Studies promotes innovative critical work in the areas of linguistics, literature, performing and visual arts, media, material culture, intellectual and cultural history, critical and cultural theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, social sciences, and anthropology. The primary focus is on those parts of the world that speak, or have spoken, French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but work on other cultures may be included. Issues cross national and disciplinary boundaries in order to stimulate new ways of thinking about cultural history and practice.
Published in Association with the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
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