Verena Olejniczak Lobsien, "Transformations of Early Modernity in the Work of W. G. Sebald", in: Journal of European Studies, 41.3-4 (2011), 431–448


This essay will examine the presence of early modern intertexts in the work of W. G. Sebald by describing the perspective in which they appear and the agenda according to which they are transformed there. The writings of Sir Thomas Browne will provide the paradigm example of Sebald’s reception of early modernity given that his alleged citations constitute a re-fashioning of the English author in Sebald’s own image. They are thus a travesty of Browne’s figurations of transcendence according both to Sebald’s personal pathogram of bipolarity and also to the Hellenistic, Epicurean model of “shipwreck with spectator’ that features so prominently in Lucretius’ De rerum natura. In presenting a range of bird’s-eye views of suffering, Sebald seems to offer a comparable scrutiny of the human condition. But his version of the ancient topos significantly distorts the answers given by Thomas Browne to similar metaphysical questions.

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