The butterfly man: trauma and repetition in the writing of W. G. Sebald

Anne Whitehead

in Trauma Fiction

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780748618576
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651726 | DOI:
The butterfly man: trauma and repetition in the writing of W. G. Sebald

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This chapter discusses W.G. Sebald's writing. It observes that his novels insistently feature photographs and descriptions of smoking chimneys and railway stations, which reveal the extent to which the Holocaust fills people's everyday consciousness and lives. The chapter shows that Sebald's writing explores the critical traces of Romanticism, and tries to determine whether this writing conflates the concepts of providence and fate with the discourse of trauma. It also states that Sebald reminds readers that there are some features of knowledge which remain beyond their grasp.

Keywords: W.G. Sebald; Holocaust; repetition; Romanticism; discourse of trauma; providence; fate

Chapter.  9527 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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