The Undiscover'd Country

The Undiscover'd Country

W. G. Sebald and the Poetics of Travel

Edited by Markus Zisselsberger

The first sustained interrogation of travel in Sebald's literary and essayistic work, employing multivalent and new critical perspectives.
W.G. Sebald (1944-2001) is the most prominent and perhaps the most enigmatic German-language writer of recent decades. His books have had a more profound impact outside the German-speaking world than those of any other. His innovative approach to writing brings to the fore concerns that are central to contemporary culture: the relationship between memory, history, and trauma; the experience of exile and our relation to place; and the role of literature (and photography) in the remembrance of the past. This collection of essays places travel at the center of Sebald's poetics and shows how his appropriation of travel in its myriad historical and cultural forms -- tourism, the pilgrimage, the walking vacation, travel as escape -- works to craft intertextual narratives in which the pursuit of individual life stories is mapped onto a wider European cultural history of loss and destruction. Following these cues, the contributors wander the various modalities of travel in Sebald's writing in order to discover how walking, flying, sojourning, and other kinds of peregrination inform the relationship between writing, reading, memory, and place in Sebald's work. At the same time, the essays uncover in innovative ways the affinities between Sebald and literary travelers like Bruce Chatwin, Franz Kafka, Adalbert Stifter, Christoph Ransmayr, and Joseph Conrad.

Contributors: Christian Moser, J. J. Long, Carolin Duttlinger, Martin Klebes, Alan Itkin, James Martin, Brad Prager, Neil Christian Pages, Margaret Bruzelius, Barbara Hui, Dora Osborne, Peter Arnds.

Markus Zisselsberger is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Miami, Florida.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Fluchtträume/Traumfluchten; Journeys to the Undiscover'd Country
Die Kunst des Fliegens by W. G. Sebald
Peripatetic Liminality: Sebald and the Tradition of the Literary Walk
W. G. Sebald: The Anti-Tourist
"A Wrong Turn of the Wheel": Sebald's Journeys of (In)Attention
If You Come to a Spa: Displacing the Cure in Schwindel. Gefühle. and Austerlitz
Campi Deserti: Polar Landscapes and the Limits of Knowledge in Sebald and Ransmayr
"Eine Art Eingang zur Unterwelt": Katabasis in Austerlitz
Convergence Insufficiency: On Seeing Passages between W. G. Sebald and the "Travel Writer" Bruce Chatwin
Tripping: On Sebald's "Stifter"
Adventure, Imprisonment, and Melancholy: Heart of Darkness and Die Ringe des Saturn
Mapping Historical Networks in Die Ringe des Saturn
Topographical Anxiety and Dysfunctional Systems: Die Ausgewanderten and Freud's Little Hans
While the Hidden Horrors of History are Briefly Illuminated: The Poetics of Wandering in Austerlitz and Die Ringe des Saturn
Works Cited
Notes on the Contributors


The collection [contains] 12 essays of remarkable quality . . . . [It] indeed journeys into "undiscover'd country," pursues innovative interpretive paths, and opens intriguing new vistas . . . . [T]he work is destined to become a milestone of Sebald scholarship. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

[T]his is a distinguished addition to Sebald criticism, and essential reading for scholars, students and general readers with any interest in Sebald. JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN STUDIES

[W]ill take its place on the map of Sebald studies . . . . assembling . . . a wide range of (mostly) excellent essays. . . . The real value of this collection lies in the individual essays connected by the master trope of travel. . . . The strongest chapters make a genuine contribution to Sebald studies and will guarantee the book a lengthy shelf life . . . . ENGLISH STUDIES IN CANADA

[A] stimulating and rigorous collection with essays that add to the conversation on [Sebald and travel]. MONATSHEFTE

Those new to Sebald would do well to study Zisselsberger's fine introduction, which sums up issues in Sebald scholarship and places the book in the context of the vast literature on Sebald. . . . Though it treats themes familiar to Sebald scholarship, . . . the book does not evoke the feeling of repetitiveness that so many contributions to the Sebald literature do. . . . Illustrations appear throughout. . . . This book is destined to become a standard. Highly recommended. CHOICE

A significant contribution to scholarship (particularly since it includes a reprint of Sebald's early, not previously widely available essay, "Die Kunst des Fliegens"). If the exact calibration of the relationship in Sebald's work between the two terms "travel" and "literature" remains unresolved, the volume is a fitting tribute to this most elusive of authors. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

Also in Series