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Mapping Sebald’s Literary Landscape

Sometimes it takes a map. We tend to remember W.G Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn as it is described on the back cover: “a walking tour of the eastern coast of England.”  But a map shows how oversimplified that is.

I’ve just seen a very interesting mapping project involving The Rings of Saturn by Barbara Bui, who has created a Litmap – or interactive tool which uses Google Maps – to link geographical references from the text of The Rings of Saturn with their locations on the globe.  Sebald, we are quickly reminded, references Europe, Asia, and North and South America, from Surabaya, Indonesia to Versailles, Kentucky.  And if you don’t recall when or why Sebald mentions Versailles, Kentucky, you simply follow the numbered reference on the map to a quote (from page 40), where you will be reminded that the gardener at Somerleyton Hall tells the narrator of two US pilots crash on the Hall’s grounds near the end of World War II – one from Versailles, Kentucky, the other from Athens, Georgia.  the owner of Somerleyton Hall buried their remains on the grounds.

Barbara Hui, is a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, where her dissertation is called Space, Place, and Complex Global Networks: Reading/Mapping the Literature of W.G. Sebald, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, and Steven Hall.  There is much more to see at her website.

Just imagine where this will lead.


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