A comparative analysis of “The rings of Saturn” and “Patience (After Sebald)”

Caroline Garcia de Souza


Abstract: This work presents a comparative analysis of W. G. Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn (1998) and Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) [2012]. As Sabine Wilke (2012) points out, Sebald did not provide a genre designation for three of his prose works, which means that he did not consider them as novels. Mixing up fact and fiction, his stories blur the line between literature and history, and hence establish a new form of “literary historiography” (WOLFF, 2014, p. 50). This hybridity is also manifested in Gee’s production, and this work explores in what aspects the latter can be considered an essay film, through the observation of questions of authorship and spectatorial experience. It argues that the book and the film are both based on a very similar concept of identity, according to which the writer and/or filmmaker’s I is but a tissue of citations from other texts. Likewise, it analyzes Sebald’s process of spatialization of time through the work of memory, and how this process is reflected in Gee’s inherently geographical approach, which emphasizes place and the mapping of consciousness. 

Key-words: Comparative literature; Intermedial studies; W. G. Sebald


Literatura comparada; Estudos intermidiáticos; W. G. Sebald

Texto completo:



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KIERKEGAARD, Soren. Eighteen upbuilding discourses. Translated by Howard Hong and Edna Hong. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990

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McCULLOH, Mark. Understanding W. G. Sebald. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003

PATIENCE (After Sebald). Direction: Grant Gee. Production: Sara Caddy, Garreth Evans. UK: Illuminations Films, 2012, 86min, son., color., 16mm

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SEBALD, W. G. The rings of Saturn. Translated by Michael Hulse. New York: New Directions Books, 1999

SILVERBLATT, M., SEBALD, W. G. “W.G. Sebald on Bookworm”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSFcTWIg-Pg. Accessed in: 25 February 2016

SCOTT, A. O. “A writer who defied categorization: Patience (After Sebald), a documentary”. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/movies/patience-after-sebald-a-documentary.html. Accessed in: 25 February 2016

SONTAG, Susan. Under the sign of Saturn. New York: Random House, 1981

THEISEN, Bianca. “A natural history of destruction: W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn”. In: MLN, v. 121, n. 3, April 2006, p. 563-581

WILKE, Sabine (ed.). From Kafka to Sebald: Modernism and narrative form. New York: Continuum, 2012

WOLFF, Lynn. Sebald’s hybrid poetics: Literature as historiography. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014


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