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‘Eine Märchenerzählung, die […] älter geworden ist mit der verflossenen Zeit’: W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (2001) as a Melancholy Kunstmärchen

Ellison, Ian (2020) ‘Eine Märchenerzählung, die […] älter geworden ist mit der verflossenen Zeit’: W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (2001) as a Melancholy Kunstmärchen. Oxford German Studies, 49 (1). pp. 86-101. ISSN 0078-7191. (doi:10.1080/07055900.2020.1735206) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:91240)

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https://doi.org/10.1080/07055900.2020.1735206

Abstract

W. G. Sebald is well known for the melancholy tone of his prose writing. However, as this article aims to show, there exists a heretofore underdiscussed debt to the German Romantic form of the ‘Kunstmärchen’ in his work that is most discernible in Sebald’s final novel Austerlitz, which was published only months before its author’s sudden death in 2001. The date of this novel’s publication and its debt to the ‘Kunstmärchen’ form are significant, since this suggests that Sebald’s well-documented melancholy perspective on twentieth-century European modernity has aesthetic origins in earlier Romantic literary forms. The tropes and conventions of the ‘Kunstmärchen’ constitute vestigially important drivers in the construction of the understanding of the past as irrecoverably separate from the present that emerges in Sebald’s melancholy prose. By examining clear instances in Austerlitz which draw on thematic and structural elements of the ‘Kunstmärchen’, this article suggests that Romantic dissatisfaction with the world of the modern and the everyday finds its late echoes in Sebald’s millennial melancholy and emerges as a key constitutive factor in the novel’s sustained refusal to offer closure or reconciliation between the narrative’s present and the past it attempts to investigate.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/07055900.2020.1735206
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Ian Ellison
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2021 12:18 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2022 12:32 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/91240 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Ellison, Ian.

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