This is what I wrote in class on Friday when we had to choose our resonant artists:

Sebald has been haunting my thoughts since we read The Rings of Saturn. Turning over his themes in my mind, there were a few things I was incredibly struck by. Man’s efforts to conquer nature was a big one, particularly the descriptions of Somerleyton, the house that blurred the lines between indoors and out.

And of course, his ouroborus (can’t take credit for this, someone else said it in seminar!) of meaning and matter.

We read Fanny Howe’s The Wedding Dress in my class last quarter and a particular line in “Bewilderment” really attached itself to me- “After all, the point of art-like war-is to show that life is worth living by showing that it isn’t”. The first time I read that line I re-read many, many times. I sensed that it contained a profound truth but I couldn’t quite decipher it. I filed it away in my mind, hopeful that time would help me interpret it.

Reading The Rings of Saturn helped me synthesize Howe’s idea a little more. It contains the same tones of life in the face of, in spite of, destruction. What matters, and why does it matter, and why does mattering matter? What even is “meaning”? (Oh God, that word). It felt to me like a book written to show, without telling, what Howe had condensed into a single line. The questions aren’t answered but the possibilities continue to expand.

Funnily, I had already written about Sebald’s influence on my project in my Mid-Project Review. His structure was what I was aiming for before I knew he existed. It feels a little miraculous. I wanted to write the story of this woman I’m researching but as I try to do a “hard historical facts!” type of thing I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s not really about Harriet. She might be more of a symbol of other things I want to explore through this piece.

Like Sebald, I want to create a dreamlike experience, wandering through a land I know all too well and examining the structures and stories it contains.

(After we got into groups a fellow Sebaldian asked “like a psychogeography?” and I suddenly realized that was exactly what I want to do).

My first inclination was to remove myself completely from the story, afraid to risk pretension. Now it’s swinging another way. The journey continues.