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Publication Detail
'Er gab mir, was äußerst ungewöhnlich war, zum abschied die hand': Touch and tact in W. G. Sebald's die Ausgewanderten and Austerlitz
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Journal Article
  • Authors:
    Bird S
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    359, 375
  • Journal:
    Journal of European Studies
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
This essay explores the theme and representation of touch in Austerlitz (A) and Die Ausgewanderten/ The Emigrants (DA/TE) and argues that the absence of touch and an excess of touch are both shown to be threatening, if not deadly. So touch must be mediated, and the complex interplay of distance and proximity characteristic of touch is encapsulated in the notion of tact. Sebald's texts explore tact in three ways: in allusions to particular objects, particularly gloves and dust; in the visual evocation of touch in photographs; and in the mode of narration itself. Nevertheless, the careful negotiation between the 'too much' and the 'too little' of touch tips easily into an aesthetics of reticence that both facilitates and disguises the privileging of a melancholic sensibility over the untouchable body of the woman. The obscene, untouchable body is exemplified by Gwendolyn Elias, and the seductive, untouchable body by the erotic mother and female lover. © The Author(s) 2011.
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