February 17 | W.G. Sebald — Writing the Past
How do we write of the past? Of historical events in the past? Of our own past? What can be captured in words and what remains untranslatable into sentences and paragraphs? These questions preoccupied the writer W.G. Sebald. In this seminar, we undertake a close reading of two of Sebald’s masterpieces, The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz, exploring the role that imagination and documentation play in the process of recollection.
When: Six weekly sessions on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, starting February 17, 2022
Duration: 2 hours per session
Cost: C$350 plus 13% HST (approx. US$275 plus 13% HST)
Group Size: 12-participant limit
How: We meet on Zoom; you will receive joining instructions approx. 3 weeks before the seminar start date. For your privacy, all our Zoom seminars are password-protected and are not recorded. See full conditions at the bottom of this page.
All seminar payments are nonrefundable. All discount codes must be used at time of purchase. If you would like to apply your Toronto Pursuits 2020 deposit to this seminar, please contact us.
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Dr. Wendy O’Brien is a philosopher with over 30 years’ experience teaching in academic and non-academic environments, including Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, Harvard, Oxford and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Her work explores subjects including power, violence, the relation to the Other, home, silence, and creativity. She is presently working on a long-term project on the concept of wonder. An active member of the Ontario literary scene, she has been an interviewer for organizations including By the Lake Book Club, the Toronto International Festival of Authors and GritLit, as well as hosting Bourbon and Books book club in both Toronto and Hamilton.
Austerlitz, by W.G. Sebald, translated by Anthea Bell, with an introduction by James Wood
(Modern Library, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2011)
The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse
(New Directions, reprint edition, 2016)
To facilitate text references during the seminar, please obtain these editions.
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In the US and the UK, try Bookshop.org, World of Books, or Ebooks (electronic books only)
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In Canada, try McNally Robinson. Toronto-based Ben McNally Books also takes orders by phone or email and ships across Canada.
How do we write of the past? Of historical events in the past? Of our own past? What can be captured in words and what remains untranslatable into sentences and paragraphs, chapters and books? Do we ever write of the past, or are we always already involved in its construction? These questions preoccupied the writer W.G. Sebald. Through both the content and form of his works, he offers his reflections, creating some of the most powerful literature of the 20th century as he writes about the trauma of World War II. Blending fact and fiction, word and image, intersplicing memoir, art criticism, history, and travelogue, his works provide us with the opportunity for exploring our own answers to these questions.
In this seminar, we undertake a close reading of two of Sebald’s masterpieces, The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz, enquiring into the role that imagination and documentation play in the process of recollection.
“This then, I thought, as I looked round about me, is the representation of history. It requires a falsification of perspective.
We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.”
— W.G.Sebald, The Rings of Saturn
More resources on Sebald:
A roundtable on Art, Fiction & History: The Work of W. G. Sebald hosted by André Aciman (author of Call Me By Your Name)
Why You Should Read W.G. Sebald in the New Yorker
Sebald reading from Austerlitz at the 92nd Street Y
Sebald the Trickster in the New Yorker
All online seminar payments are nonrefundable. All discount codes must be used at the time of purchase; no retroactive discounts will be issued.
All seminars are subject to minimum enrollment of 7 participants. Click the link for full terms and conditions for Classical Pursuits online seminars.
Classical Pursuits does not record seminars. By participating in any seminar, registrants agree not to make their own seminar recordings and to abide by the Classical Pursuits code of conduct.
Image credit: Antwerp Central Station interior, Alvegaspar, via Wikimedia Commons
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Standard registration, Toronto Pursuits 2020 credit