“like standing amidst a flood of paper”: Tropes of Abundance and Documentarity in The Rings of Saturn
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The paper scrutinizes the role of documents and documentarity in The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald. It primarily focuses on those passages of the novel that represent the excessive amounts of documents via tropes of abundance and proliferation. I argue that the narrator’s meditations upon 20th century history paradoxically connect the overwhelming accumulation of documents to the experience of erasure and destruction; however, certain episodes offer another approach, presenting the collection of masses of documents as an idiosyncratic, poetic practice. In these parts of the text, documents are displayed as “heaps” and “clouds” of paper: I reveal the ways Sebald’s language deprives them of their referential function, calling attention to their materiality.