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Professor Teresa Strong-Wilson

Faculty of Education (DISE)

Echoing Chambers: Exploring the Implications for Touchstones of Sebald on Remembering and Forgetting

The proposed research will focus on echoes of remembering and forgetting in the writings of W.G. Sebald, but especially those of forgetting. W.G. Sebald’s work represents a sustained reflection on the “problem” of memory as a site and source of post WWII “cultural disquiet” (Terdiman, 1995, p. vii). The research will use Sebald’s writings as a place from which to theorize the remembering—and forgetting—self: teacher as self, adult as child-self, the self and/as Other; especially, the storied self. The storied self is understood as intertextual, incorporating echoes and difference by way of a landscape, a phenomenological geography that begins in childhood; touchstones are a specific manifestation of such echoes. Yates (1984) likens the ancient art of memory to “an inner writing”; “loci” constitute actual or imagined places where images or words were stored in places, including chambers (p. 6). My scholarship has posited touchstones as a returning to the same spot, that is, to the same topos, as within a teacher’s “landscape of learning” (Greene, 1978, p. 2); such markers are then used to judge the worth of other stories and experiences (Strong-Wilson, 2006, 2008). In the writings of W.G. Sebald, echoes proliferate but touchstones are elusive. Sebald’s narrators/protagonists wrestle with the burden of memory and “contested pasts” (Hodgkin & Radstone, 2003): echoes of stories that would seem to be theirs but to which they come as belated arrivals and from which they often (unsuccessfully) try to escape through exile or travel. The research will use sites such as childhood touchstones to explore the educational effects of the persistence of echoes; the fact that “[a] lot of what we do answers the demands of the past” (Terdiman, 2003, p. 187): the demands of a past that, in Sebald as in Hampl (1999), draws us “back and back” (p. 36). It is not that the past is necessarily “beautiful”; rather, it is of compelling interest because “[i]t sheds the light of lived life” (p. 36).


Greene, M. (1978). Landscapes of learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hampl, P. (1999). I could tell you stories. New York: Norton.
Hodgkin, K., & Radstone, S. (2003). Introduction, in K. Hodgkin & S. Radstone (Eds.), Contested pasts: The politics of memory (pp. 1-21). London: Routledge.
Strong-Wilson, T. (2006). Touchstones as sprezzatura: The significance of attachment to teacher literary formation. Changing English, 13 (1), 69-81.
Strong-Wilson, T. (2008). Bringing memory forward: Storied remembrance in social justice education with teachers. New York: Peter Lang.
Terdiman, R. (1993). Present past: Modernity and the memory crisis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Terdiman, R. (2003). Given memory: On mnemonic coercion, reproduction, and invention. In S. Radstone, & K. Hodgkin (Eds.), Regimes of memory (pp. 186-201). London: Routledge.
Yates, F. (1984). The art of memory. London: Ark Paperbacks. (Originally published London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966)

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