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Image and Narrative - Article
Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative ISSN 1780678X
Issue 22. Autofiction and/in Image Autofiction visuelle II
Image and Text, Fact and Fiction: Narrating W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants in the First Person
Author: Todd Heidt Published: May 2008
Abstract (E): This article focuses on the ambiguous relationship between reality and fiction crafted by W. G. Sebald in his collection of short stories, The Emigrants. While scholars have traditionally focused on the use of photography in the work of Sebald, this article seeks to broaden the attention garnered by his oeuvre to include the autofictitious Inarrator he employs. Both serve as referents, which extend beyond the fiction and into reality, yet simultaneously and intentionally blur the lines they seem to draw between fact and fiction. As such, the text and images continually destabilize each other. I conclude by reading Sebald with Homi Bhabha, arguing that his postcolonial theories of time lag and the displacement of enunciatory power can be applied to the post Holocaust writings of Sebald. Abstract (F): Cet article propose une analyse détaillée du rapport ambigu entre réalité et fiction dans les nouvelles de W.G. Sebald réunies sous le titre The Emigrants. Tandis que les spécialistes de l’œuvre de Sebald se sont surtout intéressés à l’usage de la photographie dans ses ouvrages, le présent article cherche à élargir le champ d’investigation ouvert par l’œuvre de Sebald, notamment en soulignant le narrateur à caractère autofictionnel utilisé par l’auteur. Les deux procédures servent de référents, qui transgressent les frontières entre fiction et réalité et, de façon intentionnelle, rendent floues les lignes de démarcation entre les faits et la fiction. Ainsi, texte et image se déstabilisent l’un l’autre sans relâche. Dans la conclusion de l’article, je propose de relire Sebald à travers les idées de Homi Bhabha, en avançant l’hypothèse que les théories postcoloniales de celuici, concernant les notion de temporalité et de déplacement du pouvoir d’énonciation, peuvent également être appliques aux écrits d’aprèsAuschwitz de Sebald. keywords: W.G. Sebald, Homi Bhabha, photography, Inarrator, postHolocaust writing
To cite this article: Heidt, T., Image and Text, Fact and Fiction: Narrating W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants in the First Person. Image [&] Narrative [ejournal], 22 (2008). Available: http://www.imageandnarrative.be/autofiction2/heidt.htm
W.G. Sebald claimed until the end of his life that the photographs and documents he used were in large part "authentic"—that is to say that the people he writes about existed, and that the vast majority of his photographs are "what you would describe as authentic" and "are a direct testimony of the fact that these people did exist in that particular shape and form." (Wood: 25) This sense of "authenticity" to which Sebald lays claim involves of course the manner of his discourse as well. The implicit assumption in his statement is not only that these photographs are veracious artifacts, but also the "testimony" one could easily also say "narrative" is endowed with a measure of truth value. Interestingly, in attesting to their status as "authentic", Sebald already mitigates the truth value of the photographs, relativizing the claim with a careful "what you would describe as." In laying claim
this is precisely what Sebald www.G. passing freely from one to the other. "if you want to attack the veracity of a photograph…you can suggest that the standard procedure was not actually followed…" (Mitchell: 30) Such an approach would certainly discount Sebald's claim to truth. Sebald appeals to the genre of autobiography. Which question is the proper one to pose: To what extent does the text challenge the veracity of the photograph? Or to what extent do the photographs challenge the veracity of the text? This paper will focus on the photographs included in W. but whose "trauma is precisely their absence from the experiences of deportation." (Homberger: 20) Such an alteration of a photograph could under most circumstances (such as use in works claiming a measure of historical accuracy) render the piece a falsification.Article to the objective power of certification and proof which photography seems inherently to lend his narratives. family histories as a series of anecdotes. Sebald's collection of four "long stories" as he puts it. none or both. The Sebaldian Inarrator "suture[s] himself into the stories of others and construct[s] a sense of narrative and biographical continuity…" (Long: 137) and yet Sebald qua author openly discussed his invention and fictionalization of stories he couldn't recover (or recollect himself) from the material objects he collected. Two (Three?) Kinds of Photographs William J. Sebald was "an exacting customer at the University of East Anglia copy shop. He openly spoke of his work as a sort of historical project." (Mitchell: 49) Indeed.imageandnarrative. and sometimes invented. Indeed. as they straddle the boundary between media. though. discussing what might be done with his images. at once literary and inventive. on one level. detention." (GregoryGuider: 439) In writing these stories. this does not mean that they were reproduced without having first been altered according to Sebald's intentional use(s). have been truly of the persons named in Sebald's prose. adjusting the size and contrast. Set into or alongside a textual account of the narrative. Sebald's multimedial approach renders the shattered lives of these historical individualscumcharacters in stark relief while eliding a direct confrontation with the horrors of the Holocaust itself. and murder that befell their family and friends. The Emigrants (the English translation omitted the subtitle "Four Long Stories" and changed the name of the protagonist of the last epynomous story to "Max Aurach" rather than "Max Ferber"). Sebald leaves the door open to fiction. for he also openly admitted filling in the gaps of these stories with his own creation. at least in most cases. Sebald charts the developments in these intimate. history and fiction and as objects collected and inserted into the text by an autofictional Inarrator. as well as the narrator and his characters.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . each of these stories contains a narrator who encounters a Jewish émigré affected by the Holocaust and then proceeds to reconstruct the lost and shattered remnants of this individual and their family and/or friends. Mitchell's discussion of the truth value of images in the post photographic era addresses the concerns of authenticity and accuracy directly. Much in a similar fashion. "A really bold liar (particularly one who can exploit some mantle of authority) can simply appropriate legitimate pictures to false narratives by providing them with fake provenances—much as confidence tricksters equip themselves with fake biographies. Collapsing and blending the experience of the reader and the narrator. Prototypically Sebaldian in style and structure. invention and ultimately uncertainty.html 2/12 . artifacts and photographs from the lives of the individuals affected by a Holocaust they escaped physically. While the images may. one wonders which is the falsification: either.
75). Lifting images from unknown sources.J. the photographs tell a parallel story alongside the text (see Harris: 379). It is as though Sebald's narrators. Sebald mixes creation with collection liberally to achieve his works. Sebald's imagetexts reinforce and then destabilize this effect by exposing its own inconsistencies and thereby causing the reader to question where the boundaries lie between historical fact and Sebald's invention. see "History. textual and visual perspectives and time frames covering a full century. realizing that Sebald is able to do this because of a certain "mantle of authority. 135) are admittedly a falsification.Article does." It is my contention that Sebald's mantle of authority is his autofictional Inarrator.imageandnarrative. sweeping from past to present and across multiple narrators. I would like to call these found photographs. 92) pictured together and framed as a community. these two (or three) groups of photos help to establish and reinforce the ebb and flow of time in the text. The images of Ambros Adelwarth's agenda (Sebald: 132. keys (221) and even one of the narrators (89).html 3/12 . 49. I shy from calling these photographs "historical" photographs because of the interpretive liberties to which Sebald admits; however. archaeology and/or constitution of these stories in the phototext itself.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . They match a face with a name and a body with the psychological trauma of the narrative. Doubling the reality effect of his prose by using photography and writing in the mode of a memoir. 222225). In doing so. (Angier: 13) A photograph which is contemporaneous to the textual production is being passed off as a found photograph.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. 74. collected as a part of the process of putting together the pieces of these stories at the moment of textual production.e. which often function like a family photo album. document the process of writing it in images. letting the photographs tell a parallel story of reconstruction in which the "exclusion of human bias" (Mitchell: 28) normally ascribed to the objectivity of photography lends itself to both the object of study and the manner in which it is carried out. families (71. One is then encountered with contemporary photographs of cemeteries (3. one finds oneself returning again to Mitchell's quote above. This group charts the production of the text providing a set of "certificate[s] of presence" and functioning as a sort of "authentication" (Barthes: 87) of their research practices as the narrative selfconsciously unfolds. 101. For lack of a better term. The other group of photographs are older and have been collected by or given to the narrators. binary divisions yield very little; a few photographs straddle both of the categories. focusing primarily on people as opposed to places and things. 81. Blending Fact and Fiction in the First Person www. but I do not wish to continue J. Such divisions have provided fruitful readings before. Matching the text. The procession of photographs in the book can basically be treated as two parallel and interrelated groups. the temporal gap between these photographs and the contemporary photographs is certainly one of the most important considerations in investigating the nature of Sebald's use of images. playing the role of observer and observed in his historical mode of writing. 47. 217) and friends (48. those photographs which receive direct mention in the text versus those which address a reader outside the text. researched but not in a manner which one normally considers to be historically accurate. Narrative. Photography": 118120) The first group consists of the photographs taken by the narrators/Sebald during the process of crafting and fleshing out these stories. These are often of groups: school groups (39. However. he plays with this status as history and/or fiction. Long's distinction between textual or paratextual here (i. With Sebald however. in attempting to justify the (hi)stories they are writing.
extending beyond the accepted boundaries of a fictional text and penetrating reality. There is no symbolic communication without some 'piece of the real' to serve as a kind of pawn guaranteeing its consistency. as Poltronieri noted in his interview with W. almost magical narrative trajectories confounded by Sebald's web of chance meetings. Sebald's blend of "authentic" photographs and first person narration has been the subject of many a study. These real people. while also extending this doubt into the other forms of historical writing and evidence which we encounter in our daily lives: history." (30) Indeed. verified in photographs and school house diagrams. 59. Situating itself in all and no genres.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. Sebald following the publication of The Emigrants. The Emigrants is arguably the first series of stories in which Sebald combines photography and an Inarrator who becomes so www. arising in each story has gone largely without discussion. derailing the balance of our daily lives. "[t]he role of the Lacanian real is … radically ambiguous: true. can unleash grave scandals and raise serious ethical questions (as in the cases of the falsified Holocaust memoir of Binjamin Wilkomirski or.html 4/12 . and yet his blatant allusions to his own autobiography present perhaps most powerfully in The Emigrants due to its four fold repetition." (29) Thus. 56. though it should be the author's goal to craft the narrator's opinion as discretely as possible (139). agendas and calling cards are cast in surreal. His segue into prose has scenes of disorientation and eruptions of past events triggered by present visions which would also be indicative of his later work. but it also serves as a support of this very balance. more recently.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . the hyperbolized account of addiction and recovery by James Frey) text and photograph call each other into question. (138) Though Sebald disagrees with his interviewer slightly. serendipitous accidents and shared anniversaries.imageandnarrative. Poltronieri's observation sheds light on an important shift in Sebald's oeuvre. see Friedrichsmeyer's "Sebald's Elective and Other Affinities" in: Denham and McCulloh 7790) Such juxtapositions lie at the heart of Sebald's autofiction. "[t]his 'answer of the real' is necessary for intersubjective communication to take place. as will be discussed below yet freely invents where reality fails to provide the details or continue the thread of the story. In many respects. After Nature is a long.Article The doubled reality effect of Sebald's prose is simultaneously a problematic and theoretically exciting obfuscation of boundaries between history and invention. when violated. the photographs and objects Sebald collects and displays serve as this sort of pawn." (Eakin: 30) Sending the reader back and forth between truth and fiction a distinction which. this work had become less personal than his previous works. Gefühle (Vertigo) had been wellreceived critically. (The connections to Sebald's biography are well charted: See Bigsby; 3637. memoir and autobiography. McCulloh: xxiiixxiv and 32) His earlier works Nach der Natur (After Nature) and Schwindel. Sebald's texts are a reification of the Lacanian "answer of the real". Denham and McCulloh: 22. But. Sebald underscores his research and "authentic" objects of study even charting and recording his research methods. it erupts in the form of a traumatic return. The imagetexts ultimately serve as a sort of springboard in the catechretical spaces between the ostensible veracity of the photograph and the genre of memoir on one hand and the accepted and acceptable fiction of prose literature on the other.G. (on Sebald's "elective affinities". as he exploits the "presumption of truthvalue [which] is experientially essential; it is what makes autobiography matter to autobiographers and their readers. The novel Vertigo too would be a stage in Sebald's development which one cannot overlook. As Slavoj Zizek describes it. stating that the narrator always shines through the text. prose poem which achieved much of the narratological acrobatics with regard to time and history which would become a hallmark of Sebald's style.
are in many respects more directly the aesthetic offspring of The Emigrants than Sebald's previous works. conspicuously in quotation marks. (Bigsby: 70) On the contrary." (89) That Sebald's narrators are autofictional avatars of himself seems to have become a foregone conclusion in Sebald studies. (See also Furst: 220. Rainer Maria Rilke and W. It is instead the aesthetic and ethical dimension of the autofictitious effect Sebald crafts in his works which must be taken into consideration. The very uncertainty is the point of his prose and he actively challenges the reader. in part through autobiography. the closest he comes to teasing apart the role of autofiction directly in Sebald's works is in the following statement: "The ghost [of the past] is within and hence the key to confronting it lies. Austerlitz is a less pure experiment with this style in some ways. One of the most striking features of his style is. Morgan: 8788 and McCulloh: 1011) The shorter format of the short stories contained within The Emigrants lends to the volume an autofictional flexibility which Sebald's other works perhaps don't enjoy. Sebald carefully mentions a "central narrator figure.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. the narrator's connections to Manchester and the painter Frank Auerbach can be established easily. Max Ferber / Aurach. despite "small mismatches" which seem "accidental or beside the point" and which are often a deliberate method of "keeping the reader off balance in terms of the book's genre" as has been the case in other autofictitious memoirs (Adams: 62). calling photography "wonderfully useful" www. He himself plainly states that he employs photography for a reality effect. Sebald's subsequent works. as it would for Sebald. (Santner: 100) In the other stories contained in this volume. Friedrichsmeyer interjects quickly that Sebald's stories are told through "narrators whom we all know to bear an often uncanny resemblance to their creator. Sebald's game of "Is this so or isn't it so?" is most often discussed in relation to his photography. However. Eric Santner's recent study of Walter Benjamin. If Sebald's photography hangs between the realms of historical accuracy and historicallyinspired fictional narratives. The tacit assumption that the narrator and author are the same leads to yet another qualifying characteristic of autobiography. a sort of reclaiming of biography for those persons encountered by this narrator. similar such connections can be drawn directly to Sebald's life and experiences as mentioned above. in part through documented truth. the focused format of The Emigrants allows just such an autobiographical slant. in part through a reanimated history contained within a narrative of the present. for far more has been published on this collection than on any other individual work by Sebald. his narrator. Sebald'" (49). Christopher Bigsby. including the masterful Austerlitz. in part through fiction.G. Whether or not one or more Inarrators are present. The meetings are few.02/05/12 Image and Narrative .html 5/12 . without question.G. though a deeper analysis is difficult to find. (Although Morgan prefers a chronological division of Sebald's works into decades (leaving Austerlitz in a category of its own) others have corroborated my view of a lineage between The Emigrants and Austerlitz. the undeniable connections between Sebald and his Inarrator(s) in these stories should also be investigated. wove together Sebald's biography with an interpretation of his work. an Inarrator always plays a role in this process of discovery and reacquisition of memory and indeed. and Sebald himself said that this story was more a "collation" consisting of two and a half real stories. Its length alone stands as perhaps the largest obstacle. This is nearly always mentioned in scholarship on Sebald. As mentioned above. 'W.Article distinctly displaced from the center of the narrative by the framed stories of others.imageandnarrative. See particularly Barzilai:210) This is perhaps the basis of the preferential treatment The Emigrants enjoys in the secondary literature. Even the much longer piece. can be boiled down to a few brief episodes and autobiographical details of time and place. or if in fact all details relating to this Inarrator parallel Sebald's own life. becomes irrelevant." (80) Sebald's former friend and colleague. Similarly.
W.imageandnarrative. "nowhere is the distinction between fiction and nonfiction so problematic as in Holocaust literature. J. but implicates the reader as well in this process of mourning and remembering as we ask "questions about our selves and our life stories indirectly by observing others as they struggle to find answers. Long has noted that Sebald's narrators imbricate themselves in the stories they are telling by using the metaphor of suturing.Article in this regard.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . This serves as a doubleanchor in the real world. No longer relegated to the closed system of signification rendered both uncanny and safe for its ability to replicate reality within fantasy.J. Not only his photography. infusing his prose with the ethical demands posed by any confrontation either direct or indirect with the Holocaust. Not simply transgressing the boundaries between reality and fiction. which becomes a grammatical affidavit of authenticity. (Eakin 1992: 30). Furthermore. McCulloh has noted that "a major theme in Sebald's work is the heightened or intensified reality created by fiction. The autofictional I narrator who looms in the wings brings the reader back to questions of truth and www. but his detailed descriptions of real physical spaces have also proven important to his prose (Furst: 220).G. Sebald's prose brings to light not just a group of Holocaust memoirs in particular. the nature of the interplay between reality and fiction is what crafts this dynamic. rather the problematic status of representation for Holocaust memoir in general. Sebald's sometimes dizzying stylistic maneuverings blend his Inarrators together. Sebald sends his characters and his readers between the two until one is no longer certain where one ends and another begins. the security of fiction fades as the reality of the autobiographical thread in Sebald's work comes to the fore. Sebald. rooting the story in the reality of the Inarrator which is Sebald (or at least his autofictional double he leads us to believe it is) and extending into the story. serve a documentary drive to catalogue the veracity of the narrative construction (Sebald 2002a: 221. Sebald's reality effect Sebald's photographs are in need of being read in conjunction with the text. but certainly not in toto telling the truth in his own Inarrative." (xvi) By continually underscoring the ostensibly factual basis to his narratives. this is bridged with the reader by means of the ubiquitous "I" of human experience. Sebald utilizes the universalizing "I" of his prose as a sort of referent in the real world. Sebald's autofiction brings questions of autobiography to his treatment of the tumultuous twentieth century. (137) The historical reference points. He does this in myriad other manners as well.html 6/12 . 226). while simultaneously questioning recollection. for as Ephraim Sicher has proclaimed. For it is not just the narrator but an historical subject. Even his photographs of tickets and keys. (Sebald and Turner: 27) Sebald not only wants the reader to ask these questions of where reality leaves off and fiction begins. he wants us to assume that he is at least in part. into other characters and obscuring the fictional qualities of the book by staining it with the potential of truth. Each of these is tethered to an irrepressible "I" of narrative authority. who seems to be suturing himself into these stories. but more specifically in conjunction with the style of narration. photos and autobiographical elements contribute further to this technique. Much as his photographs "confirm a detail of appearance or (…) 'document' an event.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt." (7) his Inarrators exploit the "presumption of truthvalue" Eakin underscores." (Eakin: 14). and particularly in the form of Holocaust memoir. for example. By writing from the autofictional perspective which has become his hallmark." (7) While this is certainly true.
(Angier: 13) This photograph is in some sense even more dubious than the faked photo of the Nazi book burning in "Max Ferber" (184) since it is contemporary photograph meant to serve as proof of the narrator's own research methods. In this fictionalization of the real world it is the Inarrator whom we. are inclined to believe. Having really encountered these characters so Detering assumes Sebald has meticulously listened to their stories. the thinly veiled autobiographical narrator W.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. Sebald mixes creation with collection liberally to achieve his works. Perhaps the most glaring instance of the intersection of fiction and photography are the images of Ambros' agenda (Sebald 2002 a: 132. playing the role of observer and observed in his historical mode of writing. This is perhaps the sort of dynamic between fiction and reality McCulloh suggests lies at the heart of Sebald's work when he speaks of Sebald's "heightened or intensified reality created by fiction…" (7) Sebald's ability to augment the referential power of a photograph by taking it out of its historical context and creating a narrative around such an "accurate" referent of the world is hereby reaffirmed. stating: "During the winter of 1990/91. This metanarrative of the writing of the story as the story unfolds blends temporal boundaries. The photographic record of the I narrator's collection and writing of these life stories becomes its own certificate of presence for a set of methodological approaches. As Heinrich Detering notes. Sebald updates the reader on the progress of the final piece of writing which the reader is currently engaging. while reaffirming the ethical imperative to continue to bear witness to the traumatic twentieth century.imageandnarrative. The autofictional Inarrator is also an autofictional Iphotographer. but also serves as a parallel autofiction to the life stories Sebald collects. Bhabha and Sebald: PostColonial and PostHolocaust? While the postcolonial literary critic Homi Bhabha may seem thematically far removed from Sebald's postHolocaust writings. 135) which Sebald admits are a falsification. and not infrequently I unraveled what I had done. as readers. […] Often I could not get on for hours and days at a time. and so forth) which they have left behind as a means of "certify[ing] the unbelievable truths" of these stories (85. in the little free time I had…I was working on the account of Max Ferber given above. my trans. continuously tormented by scruples that were taking tighter hold and steadily paralysing me.html 7/12 ." (230) The multiple time frames and passage of time within the text as Sebald jumps from generation to generation and across decades to reconstruct a story. are also present in the www.G. the stories pass through the photographs and back to Sebald himself playing the role of an I narrator of an autoficitonal world rendered precisely to cast doubt upon the boundaries between truth and fiction. Sebald's reorganization of the referential nature of his found photographs folds back upon the narrative in the fictionalization of his research and collection methods. In referring to the process of writing itself throughout the stories.Article fiction in new registers.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . his analysis of trends in international postcolonial literature and his theories laid out in The Location of Culture may also be useful in understanding Sebald's multimedial texts. In order to secure these narratives in a truth of some kind or other. traveled the stations of their lives and preserved the material objects (photographs. Sebald effects a heightened focus on the truth value of the photographs and other found objects. calling cards. Sebald narrates the passage of time in narration.). In one particular case near the end of "Max Ferber".
However. the very avoidance of these sorts of emotional hooks in the narrative stands as a strategy which sidesteps a saccharine sentimentality." (184) In the case of Sebald. Sebald's characters are anything but localized. In the case of Sebald. one sees a literalized double of the subject. It would seem that the inclusion of photographs would help to pin down and reinforce (if not enforce) the identity of the subject in the form of the signifier. Whereas traditional photographic theory depends upon the natural human response to photography's status as proof. This experience of time becomes both a textual and metatextual element which Sebald brings to the reader's attention time and again. It is the "completed yet paradoxically openended experience" of reading Sebald's texts in which "everything is interrelated by some secret orderliness. these narratives opt for an imagetext and a sort of associative shuffling of years and lives mediated by another subject. and erasure in. This structure of time lag is precisely what Bhabha describes in his treatment of postcolonial literature and culture. One should therefore be able to order the subject into a larger web of meaning. to achieve at once a "direction and contingent closure but no teleology or holism. Sebald here combines yet another time frame: that of the plot (his journey to Bad Kissingen) has been interrupted by the present of narration. a double. delimited and uncryptic signifiers. Similarly. extending in a logical format from beginning to end or as a flashback which erupts at a meaningful moment or in reference to a meaningful photograph. matching an individual with a particular historical moment. 22) that forces a deterioration of traditionally temporally dependent models of narration. the Inarrator. Similarly. The chasm of time between the event and its narration becomes itself an important negotiation in meaning and intentionality in retrospect (Bhabha: 183). an afterbirth. reflecting on the earlier process of creating the narrative in the winter of 1990/91. and the medial doubling between image and text is a doubled failure.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. the signifier as individuated is paradoxically accompanied by its remainder. Instead. leaving two remainders. which is then consumed by a reader in a new present. but even the author isn't certain precisely how" (McCulloh: 24. given details and images which support a set of historical circumstances linked by the evidence furnished by photography. these subjects even seem to compete with one another for the position of enunciation as Sebald imbricates and blends first person narrators and primary documents directly into the present narrative mode (such as Mme Landau's extended monologue in "Paul Bereyter" or the passages from the journal in "Ambros Adelwarth"). As Bhabha says in his discussion of Barthes' "writing aloud". the narrative doubling between Sebald's characters and his autofictional Inarrators spawn even more remainders left unresolved. this retrospective position becomes radically redefined as this process of event and enunciation already separated by time becomes divided between multiple Inarrators and various pasts and presents in the text just as in the necessarily diachronic experience of viewing a photograph. Sebald is able to thereby reclaim discourse for the marginalized by reenacting this time lag and its inherent displacement of the position of enunciation from one person to another. two afterbirths. here Sebald problematizes that seemingly essential characteristic. materialized and captured in the form of a photograph; a double bound both to the irretrievable pastness of these lost persons and to the unique conditions of time and space which brought about the photograph.imageandnarrative. in such a way that the subject's accession to." (Bhabha 185) The Sebaldian I narrator specifically eschews the totalization of a teleological recapitulation of events. At times.html 8/12 .Article structure of narration itself.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . " [i]t is the art of guiding one's body into discourse. one is reminded of Eakin's statement above concerning the inherent faith readers have in Inarrators (Eakin 1992: 30) and the comparable certification of proof the genre of autobiography normally www. In some ways.
but both are in a dialogue which actively alters the perception of the other. but as they become available and allow the reader to share in both their discovery. he provides a new enunciatory space for its victims in those inassimilable places outside history. but which are themselves the objects of cropping. curiosity and obscurity. Sebald carefully approaches and simultaneously avoids the largescale historical event of the Holocaust. unnamed subjects and sometimes purposefully confusing positioning there are breaks with the traditional strategies of representation.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . fact and fiction. our sense of photography as a certificate of reality is questioned. In obvious cases.imageandnarrative. Yet. the texts create a field of meanings and associations which affect our reading of the photographs. Sebald's narrative style is dependent upon the process of recovery and the structure of remembering. The photographs stand as objects obscured in meaning by the texts: Who are the other people in the car in this photograph of Paul's father? (53) The narrator tells us he is in one schoolhouse photo. the nature of photography as a certificate of presence fades as it becomes a narrative in its own right. cutting. texts somewhere between reality and fiction are accompanied by photographs repositioned within this duplicitous field of meaning. In doing so. the text causes the reader to question the photographs and vice versa. Constructed somewhere between literature and history. In light of such use.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt.html 9/12 . As George Kouvaros notes. and yet so central to his narration. The reader shares in the narrative sutured to the "I" of Sebald's autofictitious www." (174) In this analysis. In more subtle manners as in Sebald's lack of captions. Thus. transitional moments within the disjunctive present of modernity that are then projected into a time of historical retroversion or an inassimilable place outside history." (Bhabha: 250) In crafting a text which at once grounds itself in postHolocaust topics. "Sebald's writings are both a means of communicating with the dead and crucial to the way he writes the dilemma of memory other than as a process of conscious remembrance. his images and texts could in some ways be seen as contributing to a sort of nonhistory in the sense of Bhabha's "neither modern nor antimodern but nonmodern. instead of crafting a meaningful relationship between the autofictional text and reality. contrast manipulations and other techniques which open up the possibility to attack their veracity. (Mitchell: 30) While he ardently maintained his "authenticity" in interviews. Kouvaros brings to light the very slippery nature of Sebald's use of photography which makes it problematic as history. investigating catechreses of meaning between text and image looking for that which neither could intimate alone. as with the reproduction of the faked photograph of the Nazi book burning (184). in which photographs function as the proof binding the two together in a sort of grammar of signification. yet chooses to focus on decidedly quotidian individuals at such a remove from the normal constellation of events one normally thinks of under the rubric of the Holocaust. but which child is he? (47) Where and when and with whom was the family photo of Max Ferber's mother taken? (217) And in turn. Bhabha's arguments concerning the hope for a hybridity to counteract the time lagged imaginary historical construct of a postcolonial condition which supports racism culminate in his claim that "[i]t is precisely such unresolved. Photographs do not merely trap a moment in time; rather one reads the faces and places photographed. Sebald "invites doubt in his telling" (Zwart: 245) and in his showing." (251) It is in this manner that Sebald makes a significant contribution to theories and ideas concerning media as history and media as memory. bringing stories and photos to bear upon the narrative not from a logical. retrospective and teleological perspective of hindsight.Article commands. It is neither the case that the photographs serve the text or that the text serves the photograph.
Chapel Hill. Barthes. At other times photos are included. there to spark the beginnings of memory. Christopher. 1981. Sebald aligns the reader with the act of recovery and mourning itself. more to investigate and more to mourn rather than presenting a conveniently packaged emotional catharsis which allows the reader to move beyond the traumas of the twentieth century. Light Writing and Life Writing: Photography in Autobiography. in the psyches and physiognomies of the survivors.G.Article perspective and also in Sebald's narrating of the narrative process. [and] traumatize tradition" in such a way as to "contest the sententious 'conclusion' of the discipline of cultural history. Sebald engages a "[c]ontemporary Western society [which] represents…a world in which people have learned to separate painlessly from everything. modeling as it were the very process of mourning in the structure of his texts and images. remembering and memorializing. . The Location of Culture. Sebald's insistence on nonconventional structures and means of creating this experience. Bigsby. Sebald's Die Ausgewanderten and Austerlitz.G.1 (2001): 5771. 'Paralyzed by Fact': Photography and Autobiography in Norma Cantù's Canìcula.imageandnarrative. "Who is W.html 10/12 . his almost subversive use of photographs and text in conjunction with each other can be said to "confuse the continuity of historical temporalities. 2006. Barzilai. between representation and reality. leaving more open than closed.G. confound the ordering of cultural symbols." Biography 24. 2000. Sebald?" The Jewish Quarterly 164 (1997): 1014. Angier. Maya. Bhabha. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 2006. Bibliography Adams. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Carole. Sebald: History Memory Trauma. the photographs render the relationships between signifier and signified.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . www. yet stands as a call for continued attempts at representing. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. where what has been lost leaves no scars. New York: Hill and Wang. London: Routledge. Timothy Dow. It is the unresolved nature of these characters and Sebald's modus operandi in presenting them which moves beyond traditional means of representing the effects of the Holocaust. 1994.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. between narrators and readers ambiguous. he chooses to underscore—and perhaps to attempt an alternative model against—the how of our painless separation in his style of narration of remembrance as well as the what of our separation from these objects of "spectral materiality" (see Santner 2006: 152157 for a discussion of spectral materiality and Sebald's photography) and the lives to which they bear witness. Roland. Denham. therefore doubly implicated in the identification with and mourning over these lost souls. Homi." Denham and McCulloh: 205218." (Santner 1990: 67) However. 243 and 154). photographs which seem to have slipped beyond the control of the narrator appear in some cases pages away from their textual referent (as in the case of Ambros in Turkish traditional costume). no traces. "'Heightened by Life' vs. Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust: The Chain of Memory. In the unresolved nature of this act of narration and remembrance." (Bhabha: 179) Carefully created as a haphazard document (Zwart: see esp. but not cited. not to mark its completion and significatory endpoint brought under the reigns of an historical explanation or traditional narrative resolution. NC and London: University of North Carolina Press. eds. W. Scott and Mark McCulloh. "On Exposure: Photography and Uncanny Memory in W.
Benjamin.html 11/12 . Sebald. 2002. (a) . 58. Franz. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. Friedrichsmeyer. Sara. Vertigo. Loquai. Heinrich. "Große Literatur für kleine Zeiten. . Auflage. Sebald. Understanding W. "The 'Sixth Emigrant': Traveling Places in the Works of W. Binjamin. 2006. 2002. McCulloh. 2002. 116. New York: Random House. Michael Hulse. London: Vintage Books. Interview with Christopher Bigsby." Denham and McCulloh: 219229. Memory and Film in Postwar Germany. 2001. John Paul Eakin. "Return of the Dead: memory and photography in Sebald's Die Ausgewanderten. Sebald. Sebald." Contemporary Literature XLVI. Sontag. Princeton: Princeton UP. Anthea Bell. Sebald.3 (2005): 422449. Ithaca and New York: Cornell UP. Interview with Marco Poltronieri. Susan. . 1997." German Life and Letters. On Photography. . .G. Sebalds Die Ausgewanderten. "Images that remember us: photography and memory in Austerlitz." Denham and McCulloh: 7790. Trans. Kouvaros. J. . "Sebald's Elective and Other Affinities. Aus einer Kindheit 19391945." Guardian 17 Dec. The Reconfigured Eye. GregoryGuider. Austerlitz.1 (2005): 7592. Chistopher Bigsby. G. Norwich: Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP. W. . "Wie kriegen die Deutschen das auf die Reihe?" Loquai: 133139. 2003. Vol. "Realism. Frankfurt am www. Trans." The German Quarterly 74. New York: Random House. Homburger. George. Morgan. The Emigrants.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . "History. Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography." Modern Language Review." The Ethics of Life Writing. "The Sign of Saturn: Meloncholy. Schwindel. Sebald. Eakin. Visual Truth in the PostPhotographic Era. 5. .J. Eric. Gefühle.4 (2001): 379391. 2003.imageandnarrative. Columbia: U of South Carolina P. . Ein Meisterwerk: W.G. Narrative and Photography in W. William J. . Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. Writers in Conversation with Christopher Bigsby. 2000. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. "Introduction: Mapping the Ethics of Life Writing. Mitchell. Cambridge. Stranded Objects: Mourning. After Nature. "W. 1977. Nach der Natur.Article Detering. Die Ausgewanderten : Vier Lange Erzählungen. Homelessness and Apocalypse in W. New York: Farrar. 2001: 141163.G. II. 1992. Sebald's Die Ausgewanderten. Furst. . Stefanie. New York: Doubleday. Harris. On Creaturely Life: Rilke. Eggingen: Isele. Straus and Giroux.G. Sebald's Prose Narratives. A Million Little Pieces. 2004. 2001: 20. Photography. Peter. 1992. John Paul. Austerlitz. Frey. Christopher C. New York: New Directions. Wilkomirski. Trans. Ed. Eric. Santner. Ed.G. Bruchstücke.G. Long. 2003. MA: MIT Press. 1990. 98. Winfried G. Mark R. Michael Hulse." Loqaui: 8286." Textual Practice 19.1 (2003): 117137.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. James. and Degrees of Uncertainty. Lilian R. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.1 (2005): 173193. 2001. ed. 2003. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.
Article Main: Jüdischer Verlag. "The Faithful Trace of Misgiving in W. His is also serving as editorin chief for the journal Focus on German Studies for the 20072008 academic year. 1995. Slavoj. Sebald's The Emigrants.02/05/12 Image and Narrative . Todd Heidt is currently a PhD candidate in German Studies at the University of Cincinnati. Wood. This site is optimized for Netscape 6 and higher site design: Sara Roegiers @ Maerlantcentrum www.G. MA: MIT Press. His dissertation focuses on narrative strategies and means of rendering reality in film and literature during the Weimar Republic. Salzburg and Vienna.G." Brick 59(1998): 2329. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture.html 12/12 . USA.imageandnarrative.be/inarchive/autofiction2/heidt. Sebald. Zizek. Jane. James. "An Interview with W." Critique 47. His interests lie in the intersections of multimedial representation and narration. Zwart.3 (2006): 243260. 1991. Cambridge. Having studied and taught in Chicago.
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