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Sebald versus Academia

A number of Vertigo readers have sent me the link to a recently published piece on Sebald by one of his former students Uwe Schütte.  In the Times Higher Education supplement, Schütte writes about Sebald’s tortured relationship with academia and his increasing unease over the direction that higher education took during his later years at the University of East Anglia.  Schütte provides a surprisingly fresh overview of Sebald’s academic and publishing career, as well as new insights into Sebald.  Ironically, the decision to pursue independent writing in part as a path out of academia turned into something of a prison for Sebald when the readings, book tours, and other entrapments of literary fame made increasing demands on his precious free time.

Schütte showed up at the University of East Anglia in 1992 for a “year abroad” to study under Sebald and ended up staying on to do his dissertation under Sebald.  He has previously published on Heiner Müller and Thomas Bernhard and his book W.G. Sebald: Einführung in Leben und Werk was released earlier this month by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen.    He is now the director of German studies at Birmingham, England’s Aston University,  although he is currently on leave to write a book on the critical writings of Sebald.

When I told Sebald about my plan to do a PhD with him as well, he smiled wryly and strongly advised against it. “Try your hand at gardening or land surveying,” he suggested – spending one’s working days out in the open air would be so much more preferable to slaving away at completing endless forms and other time-wasting paperwork in a stuffy office. That was meant as a joke, of course, albeit a serious one.

[It is worth noting that the Times Higher Education printed a rebuttal to aspects of Schütte’s piece on September 29, 2011.  The rebuttal, by Derek Burke, vice-chancellor of UEA during a critical period of Sebald’s tenure there, also garnered a supporting comment by Richard Sheppard.]

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. jmc #

    Readers may also be interested in the response to the Times Higher article by Derek Burke, former Vice-Chancellor of UEA, under the rather striking title “A nurturing environment”:

    October 1, 2011
    • I have appended a link to the rebuttal in the body of the post.


      October 1, 2011

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