The Aesthetics and Ethics of Refraction: Narrative Structure, Imagery, and Temporality in W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz




Michaud, Jason

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this thesis is to examine the aesthetic structure and components of W.G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz and to show their reciprocal relationship to ethical forms of remembrance for the present and the future. The goal of this project is to explain how fiction may be utilized as a means of meaningful engagement with points of traumatic memory for the purpose of maintaining viable connections to the past across time. The first chapter deals explicitly with the novel’s overall structure and its relation to philosophical forms of thought that facilitate a practical connection to the past through fiction. The next chapter examines the use of refracted or indirect narration as an aesthetic component of this process. The final chapter constitutes an investigation of photography as a structure in this aesthetic that lends itself to the overall obliqueness I see as necessary to the ethics of representation embodied in Austerlitz.



W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, Ethics of representation