Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Rachel M. Brownstein

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature


Emigrants; memory; narrative; Sebald; series; suppressed history


W. G. Sebald's novel The Emigrants presents an oblique view of the suppressed history of the Nazi era, through the lives of four emigrants from Germany. Sebald's unique manner of weaving biographical material, evidence, and photographs into his fiction, creates a misty world, neither fact nor fiction, in which the reader is never certain what is true or counterfeit. A series of recurring motifs and visual themes run through all the stories. This work examines how new forms of understanding arise in the spaces between The Emigrants' themes, punctuated by recurring imagery. It examines the nineteenth and twentieth century authors who influenced his style and haunt the text of The Emigrants: Johann Peter Hebel, Gottfried Keller, Robert Walser, Vladimir Nabokov and Marcel Proust. Within the context of post-modern aesthetics and theory, his strategies are linked to the music, films, and paintings of his contemporaries: Steve Reich, Werner Herzog, Frank Auerbach, and Jan Peter Tripp.