SPECTRAL INSUBSTANTIALITY,SPECTRAL PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY, SEBALD, WALSER AND MELANCHOLY. LINKS.BY STEVEN BENSON

The phrase “spectral insubstantiality” emanates- and I use that word,advisedly, in its meaning of a ghostly essence- from Sebald himself. He is writing re the “precariousness of Robert Walser’s hold on life and hold on, even,his posthumous{sic} reputation”(In “A Place in the Country”, 2013, trans and ed Caitling, in the chapter “Le Promeneur Solitaire: A Rememberance of Robert Walser”, partly first published in 1998). “Le Promeneur Solitaire”: how that resonates in reference to Sebald himself, his narrators and the protagonists(all blurred together as they usually are, spectrally gazing back on each other from the self-intertextual mirror that is his/their writing/fleeting essence). See my posting on Sebald and Michael Hamburgerhttps://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/thanks-to-eric-l-santneron-the-sebaldian-narators-repressed-homoeroticism-homosexual-panic-and-natural-catastrophecatastrophization/; and also this reflection(and it is conjecture, I must add) on the possibility of Sebald himself being ill with an (un?)diagnosed illness in his later years:https://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/what-happened-to-sebald-in-marienbad-conjecture-and-poemby-steven-benson/

So, this eerie,on the boundary of life and death essence, of many of the sebaldian narrators and protagonists(Austerlitz, Selwyn, and their narrators, and many more), manifested in physical “malaise”, illhealth obscurely defined as inhabiting those somatised realms between and across the physical and the emotional/psychological and spiritual. The same malaise, Sebald, always his elusive self, writes about in regard to Walser.

I want now to revert to semi stream-of-consciousness prose in attempt to make some links and ellisions:

………………….

Sublimation of (parts of ) the self in: writing(as Walser does); reading(not that these are judgements on this process, heaven forfend!)…. Sebald, Walser, myself{arrogant sod!}.Joyful sublimation(or who is to CALL it “sublimation”?), nay JOUISSANCE(I did my homework if a certain person, perchance, happens upon this posting!)… bugger the “sublimation”; jouissance(extreme joy, admixed, sometimes, though opinions differ, with pleasurable pain, depending on whether you set your definitional weather- cock by Lacan, Zizek or Edelman(hello again!)..of writing( and reading, which CAN be and SHOULD be such a collaborative act)so that the writer “sometimes succeed{s} in opening up vistas of such beauty and intensity{sic!} as life itself is scarcely able to provide”(Sebald, in his introduction to some of the essays collected in “A Place In the Country”, p.3). But then, this is the other side of the coin of writing(perhaps the pain principle of the jouissance!):”which causes every emotion to be transformed into letters on the page which bypasses life with such extraordinary precision”(p.2, Foreward, op.cit). Note the aporia, however, around transformation as sublimation and as the afore-mentioned “intensity”/intensification(or perhaps the gentle holding in the hand of a contrapuntal, putative{only} binary.)

The latter is what we are more used to hearing from Sebald and his narrators(easily conflatable): whilst the first quotation argues for the intensification of life via art, this is the exception in Sebald because writing(or , for example, Max{sic} Ferber’s ART, in “The Emmigrants”) is usually seen as a solitary, often unproductively compulsive occupation. Hence again, ” There seems to be no remedy for the vice{sic!} of literature;those afflicted{sic again} persist in the habit despite the fact that there is no longer any pleasure to be derived from it…”(p.2 , Foreward, op. cit)

………………….

So, Sebald…. writing about a virtual disease (writing), which WRITES about diseases/senses of malaise, both psychological and physiological (and all in between), self-reflectively/self-intertextually/self-reflexively.. he could be writing re himself, writing re the narrator of “the Emmigrants” , writing about  Cosmo, Ambros Adelwarth’s lover and partner; its like a Russian doll. By the way, Cosmo meets much the same fate as Walser: disappearing into nothingness in an asylum(another example of Sebald’s productive useage of knowing intertextuality and self-intertextuality-again, probably knowing)…

hence.. onto melancholy:

To me, the primary definition of melancholy(as much as a FEELING CAN be pinned down and defined)is the soul/self’s inability to actualise/occupy its dreams of self-fulfilment/satisfaction/(self)Utopia; its the aching gap-the hiraeth-between desire and realisation, be it unfulfilled/unreciprocated love or ability to actualise one’s dreams in whatever respect. Or even you realised these dreams once and you can never re-claim them; the  moment is lost/gone. Thus, Henry Selwyn’s melancholy and solatiriness: set apart from his whole(ostensible/putative) life /”life”, in mourning for the loss/death of Naegeli his (same-sex)true love(see the second part of this posthttp://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/wg-sebaldcritics-responsenon-response-to-the-large-amount-of-homosocialityclose-male-friendshipsand-of-homosexualbisexual-characters-in-his-work-with-particular-reference-to-the-character-of-h/); mourning manifested as melancholy and distance from the remaining shards of his life.

Melancholy is often mis-represented as self-indulgent,or as some kind of garb one can put on wilfully when one chooses; there is perhaps a little bit of truth in this.. but it is, to me, the GAP between dreams, one’s OWN, envisaged Utopia, and the reality of what one can actually attain/will oneself to attain, or even DOES attain(and , for whatever complex reasons, lets go of). This interstition may also be manifested as anxiety, even as somatisation of mental/emotional distress(as often in Sebald’s states of “malaise”).

Sebald, of course, encapsulates all this exquisitely and all-encompassingly: his “prose fictions”(HIS self-description),and essays: all imbued with loss , mourning manifested as melancholy and this vague( though well-delineated) malaise(the emblematic Dunwich Heath scene in “Rings of Saturn”, as I have often written, epitomises this, even going as far as ascribing at least part of the melancholy and  malaise to the loss of the love-object of the sebaldian narrator,Michael Hamburger, as the narrator surrenders his WHOLE sense of self to his beloved in obect identification and homoerotic desire; that is, he feels he has BECOME Hamburger!)

———————————————————————

Now, this may seem self-grandiose/self-grandiloquent(NEVER!)… well, if it is, most of this blog is.. but I now become self-reflective and, presumptuously,inter-textualize myself with Sebald( and Sebald writing on Walser) by writing:

On

Liverpool

Light

Night,

I sit

Alone,

Not

Unhappily

So;

Melancholy yet

Not Despairing

In a

Conducive

Bar,

Watching a

Light

display-

Flashing

With the
Quickness of

Thought-:

I sit

Unable to

Actualize my

Desire-

Psycho

Biblio

Geography-

Of

Visiting

The new

Library

(But I

WILL do!)

……..

And I am

reading

Sebald.

{With all this spectral psychogeographical malaise in Sebald, I am going on the hunt soon: to see if there REALLY ARE any queer moments of epiphany, jouissance(in the sense of pleasure ONLY, sans the pain, or PACE the pain)in his books: I have just read an abstract of a paper on ‘the Queer Aesthetics of national space in “Austerlitz”‘, where the writer argues that, in the nooks and crannies, physically and psychologically, with, presumably, a psychogeographical mirroring of each,there does Austerlitz find some sort of redemption or even just a bulwark against the terrors to which he and his family were subjected(I presume a physical geographical nook would be the Liverpool Street Station Ladies waiting Room where Auserlitz has his epiphany, but it is a NEGATIVE/reverse epiphany from which he cannot recover so I do not see the redemption there); but this analysis of mine is cursory;I want to explore this new field of Sebald study and see whether I am won over(to any degree or , even, fully). And, of course, I do not mean Austerlitz is gay in orientation, but queer in its broadest sense of becoming, selfhood, self-actualisation, quirkiness; or Lee Edelman might muddy the waters, (as may Jouissance!)

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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)

Categories psychogeography, spectral geography, transcendental (psycho)geography, uncanny, UncategorizedLeave a comment

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