The Politics of Space and Heterotopia in the Works of W. G. Sebald


Author: Richa Gupta, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, India
Email: [email protected]
Published: December 24, 2019

Citation: Gupta, R. (2019). The Politics of Space and Heterotopia in the Works of W. G. Sebald. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 8(1).


This paper will attempt to read how history and space are informed and transformed by each other specifically in the prose narratives of the German writer, W. G. Sebald. In the course of reproducing history in a non-synoptic manner in these prose narratives, there are several ways in which space and history are connected with each other. This paper will explore these myriad relations and connections between space and history. Drawing from these links, the paper will go on to demonstrate how various incompatible elements of history and space are juxtaposed on one particular site creating a heterotopia. Sebald’s innovative fiction is exceptional in its narrative technique, employment of sources and incorporation of the multiple points of views of the narrators along with their interlocutors. The specific mode of narration Sebald employs, this paper contends, treats neither space nor history as foundational categories but instead tries to posit a historico-geographical framework within which many volatile moments of heterotopia develop. The paper begins with an analysis of how history and its constituent, memory, are related to space and spatial encounters. Having established the nexus between these two categories, it goes on to examine how Sebald’s narratives offer a critique of cartographic space and how identities are established through a politics of space. All these arguments culminate to demonstrate that these narratives are constituted by heterotopic moments due to the juxtapositions and multiplicities that arise from the historico-geographical scheme Sebald brings into play.


history, space, heterotopia, W.G. Sebald, prose narrative