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10 September, 20:00
Lecture by Thomas Elsaesser
Contingency and Coincidence as the Ruins of Time: W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn as 21st Century Gothic
Thomas Elsaesser’s lecture considers The Rings of Saturn, one of W.G. Sebald’s best-known books. Elsaesser is intrigued by the role that coincidence and the chance encounter, architectural sites, as well as found or discarded objects, such as old postcards and newspaper clippings, play in his work. Their discontinuity contrasts with the promenade, the solitary walk, the railway journey: literary devices and motifs that structure Sebald’s prose and spin his fine narrative threads, but which also point to the cinema, to montage and the moving image, which move us, even as we sit still and without motion.
Difficult to locate within the genres of literature, The Rings of Saturn is even more disorienting when considered at the intersection of photography, text and images in motion. Drawing on Grant Gees Film Patience, after Sebald, a 2012 film that tries to transpose the stylistic idiosyncrasies of Sebald’s persona and prose into film, Elsaesser shows how the many tropes of contingency help to understand Sebald’s depiction of a world in ruins, as evidenced in his strategic use of images, whose enigmatic plurality of meaning makes them the nodal points of intricately networked relationships in both space and time.