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Posts tagged ‘Lynn L. Wolff’

“What is literature good for?”: Lynn L. Wolff on Sebald’s Hybrid Poetics

Wolff Hybrid Poetics

The complex constellation of historical event, individual experience, and the poietic presentation of both events and experiences is at the heart of Sebald’s work and reveals why his texts elude established genre traditions.

If I were to pick one book for the passionate Sebald reader who might want to dip a toe into serious Sebald scholarship or for the non-Sebald scholar wishing to get a clear sense of Sebald’s contribution to literature and history, I would direct you to Lynn L. Wolff’s fine book W.G. Sebald’s Hybrid Poetics: Literature as Historiography (De Gruyter). First published in 2014 as a hardcover with a price aimed at specialists and libraries, DeGruyter has now reissued the book in paperback at a price aimed for the rest of us – 19.95 (in both euros and dollars). The book is widely available from the publisher, Book Depository, and Amazon.

In her introduction, “Why W.G. Sebald,” Wolff gives a compact biography of his adult life and then discusses the “Sebald phenomenon” – the rise in films, exhibitions, artworks, blogs, and other forms of public and creative response to Sebald’s books. She provides a succinct, but wide-ranging overview of the critical secondary literature that has sprung up around Sebald in a variety of academic disciplines, as well as the seemingly endless academic frameworks through which scholars have tried to view Sebald’s work – postmemory, Freudianism, intertextuality, etc. Yet despite the onslaught of literature about Sebald’s works, Wolff senses that “there are significant gaps” in the way that scholars have examined “the specificity of his poetics” and it is her intention to focus on the mechanics of his writing and their implications. In doing so, she examines all of Sebald’s texts – critical writings, prose fiction, and poetry – with an “open perspective” and in “a methodologically non-dogmatic way.”

Central questions of my investigation are: What is particular about Sebald’s writing? How is he “translating” history into literature? How and where does he emphasize this process? Where are his sources apparent? Where does he cover them up?…These questions prove productive in initiating the reader’s engagement with not only the text but also the broader questions of memory, history, and authenticity.

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Sebald’s Hybrid Poetics: New Book Announcement

Lynn Wolff

A new scholarly book on Sebald will be published this month: Lynn L. Wolff’s W.G. Sebald’s Hybrid Poetics: Literature as Historiography (Berlin: De Gruyter). From the publisher’s website:

This book offers a new critical perspective on the perpetual problem of literature’s relationship to reality and in particular on the sustained tension between literature and historiography. The scholarly and literary works of W.G. Sebald (1944–2001) serve as striking examples for this discussion, for the way in which they demonstrate the emergence of a new hybrid discourse of literature as historiography.

This book critically reconsiders the claims and aims of historiography by re-evaluating core questions of the literary discourse and by assessing the ethical imperative of literature in the 20th and 21st centuries. Guided by an inherently interdisciplinary framework, this book elucidates the interplay of epistemological, aesthetic, and ethical concerns that define Sebald’s criticism and fiction. Appropriate to the way in which Sebald’s works challenge us to rethink the boundaries between discourses, genres, disciplines, and media, this work proceeds in a methodologically non-dogmatic way, drawing on hermeneutics, semiotics, narratology, and discourse theory. In addition to contextualizing Sebald within postwar literature in German, the book is the first English-language study to consider Sebald’s œuvre as a whole.

Wolff’s book is number 14 in the De Gruyter series Interdisciplinary German Cultural Studies, which began in 2006 with W. G. Sebald: History – Memory – Trauma, edited by Scott Denham and Mark McCulloh. Wolff is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University in Stuttgart and has written about Sebald, H.G. Adler, and other German writers.