W.G. Sebald and the Cinematic Imagination
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W. G. Sebald's references to films, film directors, and actors pervade in both his critical essays and in his prose fictions. Although there are many different films, cinematic metaphors, and allusions to cinema throughout his work, most of them stand in specific service to memory. This study thus explores the function of filmic images and intermediality more generally in Sebald's prose fictions. It looks at how his writing about film not only mirrors the workings of memory, but also how it produces new and hybrid memories. Sebald's books seek to mark off precisely this liminal space in which new memories are created, a space characterized by a dialectical synthesis of imagination and reality, past and present. The interplay between the polarities leaves the reader with a sense of uncertainty about what is remembered and what is imagined to have been. This is a productive stage for Sebald, because it not only triggers our imaginative faculties but it also advocates for a critical engagement with the ways our memories are remembered and our histories are written. Filmic events in Sebald's writing access a space in his texts, which would have otherwise remained hidden. Sebald's prose fictions contain evidence of both his fascination and uneasiness with the way the film medium transformed human identity and the nature of memory. His ambivalent relationship to film and technology more generally makes him a relevant figure whose work has been embraced by both academics and (visual) artists. His claim to be a "bricoleur"--a collector of pre-existing visual material--resonates with the present era's unprecedented ability not only to store huge digital archives, but also to click, drag, and recontextualize their contents across limitless formats. Always on the move, collecting, reporting, and speculating about images, Sebald suggests that we do not have to be slaves to spectacle but can use film and photography as instruments of thought. This study thus explores Sebald's use of the idiosyncrasies of the film medium to reflect on and explore the nature of memory.
- German