Tourists of the Past: Topographies of Memory in W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Ana Menéndez's Loving Che, and Teju Cole's Open City

Benjamin Lee Klamborowski Williams, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Examining, comparatively, the exemplary fictional texts of W. G. Sebald, Ana Menéndez, and Teju Cole enriches the study of exilic experience concerning cultural memory as their destabilization, while geographically and ethnically divergent, represents the constellations of mobility and potential for memory. As absences resonate and profoundly disrupt their works, there is a turn to histories to cope with traumas. By turning to the past, each writer confronts destabilization and uprootedness and, in doing so, plays a game with History. Readers play too as we search through the fictionalized lacunae to consider the extent to which we are complicit in the histories of violence, separation, and mourning. Throughout Sebald’s, Menéndez’s, and Cole’s respective oeuvres, three works, Austerlitz, Loving Ché, and Open City, trace time, space, mobility, and silence in a parallel fashion as they convey spectral geographies, bemoan the loss of the past, investigate embodied cartographies, and attempt to re-historicize a literary archive. Exploring the tensions between ways of knowing presented in visual, verbal, and tactile spaces of the city as depicted in these prose narratives, I will argue that the writers construct an alternative epistemology that reclaims subjectivity and problematizes “History” while engaged with a past that radiates in photographs and bodies.

Subject Area

Literature|Comparative literature

Recommended Citation

Williams, Benjamin Lee Klamborowski, "Tourists of the Past: Topographies of Memory in W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Ana Menéndez's Loving Che, and Teju Cole's Open City" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13886931.
https://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI13886931

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