CFP: Sebald. Again. NeMLA 2022, Baltimore (30.09.21)

Michael Powers's picture

Sebald. Again.


“Certain things, as I am increasingly becoming aware, have a way of returning unexpectedly [unverhofft und unvermutet], often after a lengthy absence,” Sebald writes at the end of the first narration of The Emigrants/Die Ausgewanderten. Throughout Sebald’s stories, “things” insistently return, most prominently as flashes of memory triggered by chance encounters, uncanny images, and echoes of the past. The unexpected return of that which has decayed, been repressed or forgotten forms a central motif across Sebald’s writings, texts which obsessively double back, and in doing so, illuminate the processes of repetition by which meaningful constellations emerge from the continuous abrasion between history, nature, and literature.


20 years after the author’s death, we find ourselves caught in a comparable state of obsessive return: “They are ever returning to us,” Sebald’s texts. However, increasingly our attention is drawn not only to the recursive gesture of Sebald’s stories, but also to the modes, figures, and tropes by which things reappear. The description of the return, “unverhofft und unvermutet,” transforms into one word in the English translation: “unexpectedly.” “Unverhofft” – unhoped for – emphasizes an ambivalent relationship to the thing’s return, while “unvermutet” stresses its unpredictability. Reduced to a single term, the translation hides a complex relation between three distinct signifiers presented as virtual doublings of one another. Even in these words, things return not as themselves.


This panel seeks to return to Sebald, again, to explore the unexpected and unpredictable in his texts. We encourage proposals for papers that look at:

  • the affective qualities that attend acts of Sebaldian returning              
  • neglected intertexts or unexpected comparisons
  • marginal and marginalized characters within Sebald’s work
  • the role of nonhuman actors, animals, nature, and inanimate objects
  • and all those things that we are not able to predict

Paper proposal submissions are due by September 30 and have to be uploaded to the NeMLA website, together with some essential biographical information about yourself. The following link below will take you directly to this panel’s submission page:


If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Michael Powers (Macalester College) and Dr. Benjamin Brand (Univ. of Pittsburgh) at