Pictorial and Verbal Discourse in W. G. Sebald's The Emigrants

Silke Horstkotte
2002 Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies  
whose death in November 2001 shocked the literary public, has been hailed as one of the most innovative German language writers of recent years. Sebald lived in England but continued writing in German and has been established as a major figure of the literary scene both in Great Britain and North America through highly accomplished translations of his work. In Germany, critics have praised his idiosyncratic depiction of history, memory, and transgenerational trans mission. The most innovative
more » ... pect of Sebald's works, however, is their highly original use of photographs. The majority of Sebald's texts include graphic repro ductions of photographs, and photographs as visual and material objects also play an important role as plot elements. Among the central issues of Sebald's works is the role of photography in constructing personal, familial, and collective historical narratives, as well as the relation between (pictorial) memory and (verbal) narrative. Thus, Sebald's books lend themselves to an interdisciplinary approach that seeks to elucidate the relation between verbal and pictorial discourse in contemporary culture, and between verbal and pictorial media in the construction of history and memory. During the course of the twentieth century, photographic, film, and televisual images have played an increasingly important role in the construction and docu mentation of historic events. The advent of the mass media has lead to a prolifera-Silke Horstkotte received a Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig. Her research interests include 18th century literature, German romanticism, narratology, and the 20th century novel. She is currently writing a book about narrated photographs in German novels after 1945. She can be reached at
doi:10.17077/2168-569x.1016 fatcat:55gjcyyjbzad5etcknpktu2yse