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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2012

Travels with my Uncle. Exoticized Masculinity in W. G. Sebald's The Emigrants


This paper analyzes the third narrative of The Emigrants (1992), titled ‘Ambros Adelwarth’, which relates the life and sufferings of the narrator’s great-uncle. Particular emphasis will be laid upon the presence of pictures within the text, especially a very remarkable photograph of Adelwarth in Arab costume, taken during a journey to Constantinople and Jerusalem with his companion at the dawn of the 20th century. Drawing on Barthes’, Sontag’s and Rancière’s theories on photography, my main concern is to look at its impact on the rendering and understanding of the great-uncle’s life trajectory and masculinity, recoded through this spatial and temporal displacement. The photograph and the narrator’s subsequent inquiry thus reconstruct the family’s portrait of the emigrant great-uncle. The “documentary fiction” aims at creating an original frame and device of visibility, engendering a reorientation of the attention of the reader/onlooker. Particular attention will thus be paid to the importance of the reading experience (Ricœur’s mimèsis III), and what happens when one encounters old family albums – operating as “something of a revelation” (Sebald). Reproduced within the text, and not merely described, the photographs thus haunt the readers who are themselves potential addressees for these spectral pieces of evidence. Sebald thereby reproduces, I shall argue, on the level of the reading experience the disruptive resurgence of the past, disruption that necessarily also touches the representation and understanding of Adelwarth’s masculinity.


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hal-01426655 , version 1 (04-01-2017)


  • HAL Id : hal-01426655 , version 1


Anne Isabelle François. Travels with my Uncle. Exoticized Masculinity in W. G. Sebald's The Emigrants. IX. Congress Crossroads in Cultural Studies, ACS Association for Cultural Studies; Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3, Jul 2012, Paris, France. ⟨hal-01426655⟩
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