The Return of the Dead: Memory and Photography in W.G. Sebald's Die Ausgewanderten
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This is an analysis of W.G. Sebald's 1992 text, Die Ausgewanderten, in relation to the juxtaposition of narrative prose and photographs. The essay examines the status of the photographic image in Sebald's text by way of Roland Barthes's meditation on the ontology of photography in his Camera Lucida, in which Barthes opens up the problems both of how to represent history and the peculiar relationship to death and temporality announced by the photograph. This is not to argue that Sebald valorizes the photograph over language in the representation of the past, but rather employs a juxtaposition of the two media precisely in order to address questions of representability more generally. Through the combination of media, Sebald's hybrid novel not only raises questions about the role of photography in the mediation of private and public memory, but moreover, suggests an alternative model of cultural memory itself.
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