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The spectral geographies of W.G. Sebald

The spectral geographies of W.G. Sebald For Jacques Derrida, place and self are conjured, and unsettled, through haunting rather than dwelling. He argues that spectrality, the revenance of the ghostly, is an irreducible, incessant condition, and also one that demands new, themselves haunted, ways of writing. This article uses Derrida's spectrality to introduce, engage with and activate the work of the German author and academic W.G. Sebald. Sebald, who died in 2001, was a remarkably original writer, producing an innovative literary form incorporating elements of existential memoir, autobiography, travel writing and phantasmagoria. In turn, this article examines Sebaldian themes of wandering and exile, experiences of `parlous loftiness' and episodes, constitutive of place, of paralysing horror. The worlds Sebald describes are in one sense peopled by ghosts and by the haunted: the displaced, traumatized and exiled. However, with Sebald, it is not a matter simply of reflecting upon those made spectral, made almost invisible, through expulsion and exclusion. Nor is it only a question of places and people haunted by the insistent ghosts of the past. Rather, Sebald's geographies are more essentially spectral in that their concern is with the unsettling of places and selves as a primary process. In this way, via Derrida and Sebald, the article offers some directions and suggestions for producing spectral geographies of place and self. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Cultural Geographies SAGE

The spectral geographies of W.G. Sebald

Cultural Geographies , Volume 14 (2): 18 – Apr 1, 2007

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References (21)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
Copyright © by SAGE Publications
ISSN
1474-4740
eISSN
1477-0881
DOI
10.1177/1474474007075353
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

For Jacques Derrida, place and self are conjured, and unsettled, through haunting rather than dwelling. He argues that spectrality, the revenance of the ghostly, is an irreducible, incessant condition, and also one that demands new, themselves haunted, ways of writing. This article uses Derrida's spectrality to introduce, engage with and activate the work of the German author and academic W.G. Sebald. Sebald, who died in 2001, was a remarkably original writer, producing an innovative literary form incorporating elements of existential memoir, autobiography, travel writing and phantasmagoria. In turn, this article examines Sebaldian themes of wandering and exile, experiences of `parlous loftiness' and episodes, constitutive of place, of paralysing horror. The worlds Sebald describes are in one sense peopled by ghosts and by the haunted: the displaced, traumatized and exiled. However, with Sebald, it is not a matter simply of reflecting upon those made spectral, made almost invisible, through expulsion and exclusion. Nor is it only a question of places and people haunted by the insistent ghosts of the past. Rather, Sebald's geographies are more essentially spectral in that their concern is with the unsettling of places and selves as a primary process. In this way, via Derrida and Sebald, the article offers some directions and suggestions for producing spectral geographies of place and self.

Journal

Cultural GeographiesSAGE

Published: Apr 1, 2007

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