Warburg, Sebald, Richter : toward a visual memory archive / by Doris McGonagill.
This dissertation traces the relationship of the image, memory, and loss in the work of the art and cultural historian Aby Warburg (1888-1929), the writer W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), and the artist Gerhard Richter (born 1932). I argue that in their different ways, all three developed archives of the European imagistic tradition. These archives and the intellectual traditions that inform them are the main subject of this analysis.Examining the complex interrelations of history, memory and memorialization articulated in these works, I argue that the projects of Warburg, Sebald, and Richter, despite the differences in their historical and intellectual backgrounds and conceptual frameworks, share not only a wide array of correspondences and parallels in detail, but are also inherently related through a number of overarching topics, hermeneutical and epistemological concerns, as well as methodological similarities.The work of each, Warburg, Sebald, and Richter, can be understood as a response to a specific "memory crisis" (a concept coined by Richard Terdiman) and as a project of hermeneutic rescue. Situated in the historical cataclysms of World War I and the diminution of the classical heritage associated with the dawn of modernity in the case of Warburg, and World War II and the catastrophic collapse of the European memory associated with the Holocaust, as well as the political and societal conditions in post-war Germany, in the case of Sebald and Richter, their intensified memory work finds expression in collecting and archiving as well as attempts to theorize the mnemonic experience.
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