SEBALD AND CRITICAL THEORY EMBODIED/ENSCRIBED IN A HUMAN FORM; BY STEVEN BENSON

I have been reading some critical theory based on Deleuze and Guatarri. Critical theory is all very well,and often gives a useful framework, and is a catalyst for new ways of looking at texts. But, it does seem to me that, in Sebald’s writing, especially his prose-fiction and poetry, critical theory is LIVED OUT, in approachable, compassionate and HUMAN forms and manifestations; that is, empathy with his characters in warm writing, quietly emotional. He read the Frankfurt School writers in the 1960s; I have no evidence (he MAY have done!) read Deleuze, Guattarri, Derrida or any lesbian and gay studies or Queer Theory; but in his noncriticism -based writings we have an assimilable, credible, indescribably moving and compassionate WORKING OUT of theories from various schools of critical thought.

For instance: 1.”deterritorialization”(a deleuzian concept), ie how marginalized races, sexualities and differently abled people are sidelined and written out of history by the hegemony; or, to use another Deleuze term “made minor” in the context of “major” dominant power.

2. Sebald goes further than this: he REterritatorializes, ie, reclaims, these people- by allowing the abject a voice so that the objects(done TO) become SUBJECTS through his narratives, and are rescued FROM marginalisation (to the edges of hegemony, often oppressive and brutal history) by his reparative stories. They are re-written back into history. Examples are the emmigrants’ narratives, and  Austerlitz, and “Dr.K”, in “Vertigo”( ironically or, possibly, knowingly, to Sebald, Kafka is the starting point for Delueze’s concept of the “minor”; and Sebald adds the further “minorisation” of Dr. K’s suppressed-by hegemony and brutality again{see this posthttps://decayetude.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/sebald-reclaims-kafka/}-homosexuality/bisexuality, all in very HUMAN terms. Here, altho Dr. K possibly succumbs to the “jackboot of history”, Sebald is doing, through narratives of great warmth and power, the reparative work of lesbian and gay studies, for instance.

Other obvious examples are the gay couple, Cosmo and Ambros, the(again gay) Roger Casement , the (once more gay!!) Henry Selwyn and the love of his life, Naegeli; and Austerlitz, the displaced Jewish person(as well as Dr. K and others of course, all marginalised/”deterritorialized”in various ways). Sebald was himself an emmigrant, always expressing, via his sebaldian narrator, and in interviews, his sense of being without a homeland, and being an outsider figure,even in the progressive  UEA in East Anglia, but especially an outsider from morally compromised Germany with its unwillingness (especially upto the 1960s) to try and understand what had happened under the Third Reich and why(as well as his father being in the Wehrmacht and working under the Third Reich)

So it is all there, like theory WORKED OUT,  in the flesh(of piercingly human narratives), embodied. But obviously much much more, in its sad, melancholic tone, which yet, almost paradoxically, gives it  sense of reparativeness as he RESCUES for posterity these lost “deterritorialised”/marginalised figures and narratives,( themelves composites of real people and fiction.)

What I am saying, essentially, is WHERE are minor and reparative , and possibly ALL theories, AFTER Sebald’s writings?: because he has  done (nearly) all of it, encapsulated warmly, empathically and compassionately in his own blend of narrative, history, (semi) autobiographical memoir, geography(psychological and physical), history, what man has done to man; its all there. So, in comparison, sometimes theory seems dry, having immersed myself in this greatest of all great writers, with his vast(HUMAN) scope of subject and his incomparably beautiful, mournful yet ennobling and, somehow, life-enhancing, tone. But, strangely and ironically, theory also informs it, and adds to the appreciation of Sebald’s richness.

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Published by: decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)

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