Tragic Travels and Postmnemonic Alterity in W. G. Sebald's 'Austerlitz' : A Peratologic Analysis

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This paper explores the tensions between (post)memory and amnesia as interlacing themes around which Sebald’s transnational narrative Austerlitz is constructed. It examines the identitarian space of the eponymous character as traversing psychic, emotional, mnemonic and comprehension boundaries at both personal and collective levels. Austerlitz is simultaneously torn between a dormant memory and the lack thereof, as also between partial remembrance and the devastating effects of post-mnemonic revelations. His self-awareness hinges on an investigation of the unfathomable enormity of the Holocaust and other forms of panhistoric violence, whose ubiquitous traces across Europe’s urban space are imprinted in the architectural and geographic layout of individual and transnational “cumulative trauma” (M. Khan). The paradox engendered by the overarching mobility of Austerlitz’s cross-temporal and spatial journeys, on the one hand, and his increasing feelings of entrapment and traumatic motionlessness, on the other, evokes in fact the problematic balance between memory and amnesia as “apathic nonexistence” (Khan). His “haunting legacy” of loss (G. Schwab, 2010) also prompts an exploration of the devastating impact of long-term suppression, while also tackling memory’s ineluctable potential for destruction. Sebald thus addresses the possibilities of living both with memory and without it, and investigates the limits of the ensuing physical and mental pain. This paper proposes, therefore, an analysis of the dialectics of transnational and cosmopolitan movement, on the one hand, and the inner paralysis, on the other, with reference to Holocaust trauma and postmemory in Sebald’s transnational prose Austerlitz.

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800 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft
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postmemory, Holocaust literature, transnational memory, peratology, Holocaust trauma
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ISO 690BOTEZ, Catalina, 2011. Tragic Travels and Postmnemonic Alterity in W. G. Sebald's 'Austerlitz' : A Peratologic Analysis. In: Literature & Aesthetics. 2011, 21(2), pp. 148-159. ISSN 2200-0437
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@article{Botez2011Tragi-20687,
  year={2011},
  title={Tragic Travels and Postmnemonic Alterity in W. G. Sebald's 'Austerlitz' : A Peratologic Analysis},
  number={2},
  volume={21},
  issn={2200-0437},
  journal={Literature & Aesthetics},
  pages={148--159},
  author={Botez, Catalina},
  note={http://ojs-prod.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/LA/issue/view/441}
}
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