Critics frequently read W.G. Sebald’s work, and particularly his final novel Austerlitz (2001), through the critical framework of trauma and mourning. Such readings tend to focus on Austerlitz’s inability to retrieve childhood memories that would connect him not only to his own past but also to a collective memory of Jewish trauma. However, rather than representing such temporal divides as a lamentable lack of access to this past, Sebald resignifies them in ways that enable an innovative articulation of the past’s continued relevance in the present. Releasing physical artifacts and architectural spaces from the burden of memorialization, Sebald allows them to function as objects whose materiality inaugurates an affective encounter with the past. Taking seriously the affective engagement with such objects that attest to the past without overdetermining it, these new materialist methodologies enable us to move past static models of historical memory and politicized forgetting.


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pp. 104-121
Launched on MUSE
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