Richard Gray's graduate seminar in autumn 2015 :: W. G. Sebald’s Prose Fictions  

Submitted by Michael Neininger on

This graduate seminar will be open to students from other disciplines, in the spirit of breaking down disciplinary or departmental boundaries.

The course will examine the four major prose fictional works of the German émigré writer W. G. Sebald: Schwindel. Gefühle (Vertigo); Die Ausgewanderten (The Emigrants); Die Ringe des Saturn (The Rings of Saturn); and Austerlitz. German Studies participants will read the primary works in the original German; students from other fields (Comp. Lit.; English; other literary areas; visual arts) will be able to read Sebald’s works in English translation. Seminar discussions will be in English. Sebald’s prose fictions will be read chronologically, in the order of their composition, enabling us to consider questions of the development and genetic emergence of histypical literary, artistic, and narrative practices. Themes to be addressed will include problems of memory and “post-memory”; relations of exiles to the idea of “homeland” and “adoptive nation”; the relationships between image and text; architecture, image, and narrative structure; Sebald’s literary precursors (e. g. Kafka; Wittgenstein; Nabokov); trauma and testimony; narratives of travel; implementation of metafictional and intertextual devices. Participants will also be encouraged to explore other texts from Sebald’s oeuvre, including his literary-critical essays, incomplete projects such as his Corsica travelogue, and his cultural-political writings.


Course requirements: Students will present brief reports on selected works of secondary literature or on ancillary texts relevant to our primary readings. Active participation in seminar discussions is expected. Seminar participants will pursue independent research on Sebald, culminating in a final project that would ideally integrate digital humanities components, exploiting multimedia capabilities. This is in keeping with the multimedia experiments Sebald undertakes in his own prose fictions. Projects can be completed individually, or can emerge from collaborative work by pairs or small groups of individuals. Students will present their projects to the entire seminar in a specially scheduled meeting at the end of the quarter, most likely during finals week.