Reading W. G. Sebald

Reading W. G. Sebald

Adventure and Disobedience

Deane Blackler


Camden House



A daring new view of Sebald's works and the reading practice they call forth.
W. G. Sebald was born in 1944 in Germany. He found his way as a young academic to England and a career as professor of German. Only between the late 1980s and his untimely death in 2001 did he concentrate on nonacademic writing, crafting a new kind of prose work that shares features with but remains distinct from the novel, essay, travel writing, and memoir forms and gaining elevation to the first rank of writers internationally. No less a critic than Susan Sontag was moved to ask "Is literary greatness still possible?," implying that it was and that she had found it embodied in his writing. Deane Blackler explores Sebald's biography before analyzing the reading practice his texts call forth: that of a "disobedient reader," a proactive reader challenged to question the text by Sebald's peculiar use of poetic language, the pseudoautobiographical voice of his narrators, the seemingly documentary photographs he inserted into his books, and by his exquisite representations of place. Blackler reads Sebald's fiction as adventurous and disobedient in its formulation, an imaginative revitalization of literary fiction for the third millennium.

Deane Blackler received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 2005 from the University of Tasmania.


August 2007
13 black and white illustrations
271 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133519
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, BIO007000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Pre-amble
Encounter with Disobedience
From W to the Norwich-London Road
Views from a "Coign of Vantage"
Stage 1: The Traveling Narrator and His Disobedient Companion
Stage 2: Traveling with a Cheap Camera -- Imagine That!
Stage 3: Spatial Trajectories -- Catching Trains of Thought to Textual Spaces
Conclusion: A Farewell Note
Works Cited


Blackler deftly argues that Sebald's fiction engages the reader in new ways, contemplatively and imaginatively with flight of thought and wandering imagination. CHOICE

Inverting Umberto Eco's notion of the "obedient reader," Blackler argues that Sebald's oeuvre demands a "postmodern" reader, one who is willing to be "disobedient" and follows interpretive paths that lie outside the boundaries of the text. .(A)n essayistic experience rather than a scholarly study and in this sense offers an engagement with literature that is reflective of the argument it advances: that Sebald's writing calls for a "disobedient" and emancipated reader. MONATSHEFTE

(A) thoughtful and well-written study. H-NET

(A) lively and readable monograph.... Sebald, the academic in revolt against academe would, I think, have responded positively to Blackler's book. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

Author Bio

Deane Blackler received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 2005 from the University of Tasmania. She is Head of Professional Learning at Trinity Grammar School in Kew, Australia.

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