Scraping down the past: Memory and amnesia in W. G. sebald's anti-narrative

Philosophy and Literature 34 (2):394-408 (2010)
Authors
Kathy Behrendt
Wilfrid Laurier University
Abstract
Vanguard anti-narrativist Galen Strawson declares personal memory unimportant for self-constitution. But what if lapses of personal memory are sustained by a morally reprehensible amnesia about historical events, as happens in the work of W.G. Sebald? The importance of memory cannot be downplayed in such cases. Nevertheless, contrary to expectations, a concern for memory needn’t ally one with the narrativist position. Recovery of historical and personal memory results in self-dissolution and not self-unity or understanding in Sebald’s characters. In the end, Sebald shows how memory can be significant, even imperative, within a deeply anti-narrativist outlook on the self, memory, and history.
Keywords W. G. Sebald  Galen Strawson  narrative views of the self  memory  collective memory  Holocaust  amnesia  ethics of memory
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DOI 10.1353/phl.2010.0006
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