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Title: W.G. Sebald's Luftkrieg und Literatur : German literature and the allied bombings of German cities in World War II
Author: Lawson, C.
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis is a critical analysis of W.G. Sebald‘s Luftkrieg und Literatur (On the Natural History of Destruction) and its reception in the German media and in scholarship. Sebald‘s essay caused a public debate in 1997 over the ethical implications of a cultural memory of the Allied bombings of German cities in the Second World War. Since then, the essay has come to be understood as a foundational moment in the discourse surrounding 'German victimhood' in representations of the bombings and the expulsions of ethnic Germans from the Eastern territories. The thesis argues that Sebald‘s essay has been widely mis-read and mis-appropriated in the service of the discourse. Re-inscribing the essay into the aesthetic and philosophical framework of Sebald‘s wider prose oeuvre, from which it is frequently divorced in scholarship, it argues that the text is exemplary of Sebald‘s creation of an archive of 'natural history' with regard to the representation of past catastrophes. Situating the essay within a 20th century tradition of German thinking on history and the enlightenment that informs Sebald‘s thought, I use this thick contextualisation to argue that Sebald‘s fascination with the bombings and the ruined cities provides an intersection between his academic and aesthetic practice, offering important insights into his natural historical gaze, archival technique and preoccupation with the catastrophic history of his country of origin. With this examination of an important but often mis-understood text, the thesis aims to enrich the field of memory studies in relation to post-reunification Germany and correct an oversight in the recent history of cultural memory regarding the Nazi past. It also aims to fill a gap in the scholarship on W.G. Sebald, a writer who has increasingly been understood as one of the most significant in the recent German canon, by reinscribing Luftkrieg und Literatur into his body of work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available