Chapter

On the Late Sublime: W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn

Lecia Rosenthal

in Mourning Modernism

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233977
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241200 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823233977.003.0005
On the Late Sublime: W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn

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In the late 1970s, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched the twin Voyager space vehicles, the interplanetary mission carried a truly far-out, indefinitely addressed envoi. One of the critiques of the sublime after Auschwitz emerges out of the contradiction between the sight of images of horror and the idea that such images should produce the questionable gain of merely telling us, over and over again, that we cannot do more than present the limitations of representation, or “the unpresentable within presentation itself.” The Rings of Saturn situates itself somewhere on the outskirts of the world and genre, tracing in departure the literary-terrestrial terrains of the travel diary, recollections of the walking tour, memoir of a life beyond. Sebald's aesthetics mixes the sublime with the naive.

Keywords: W. G. Sebald; Voyager; aesthetics; The Rings of Saturn; sublime; naive

Chapter.  10014 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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