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Title: Missed Encounters: Stendhal, Sebald and the Return of Waterloo
Authors: Shaw, Philip J.
First Published: 1-Aug-2017
Publisher: Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve) and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven,
Citation: Interférences littéraires, 2017, 20, pp. 11-26.
Abstract: This article focusses on the representation of the Battle of Waterloo in Stendhal’s Charterhouse of Parma (1839) and W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (1995). In doing so the article also considers broader questions about wartime experience and the persistence of traumatic memory in Stendhal’s autobiographical writings, while reflecting on Sebald’s sustained engagement with the unsettling effects of war in Stendhal’s life and work in Vertigo (1990) and Austerlitz (2001). Drawing on Cathy Caruth’s account of trauma as a “history that can be grasped only in the very inaccessibility of its occurrence”, the article claims that what Stendhal and Sebald share in their unorthodox accounts of Waterloo and the Napoleonic wars is an interest in the potential of traumatic memory to disrupt narrative time and thus, via Lacan, to open up history to the return of the Real. Key to this reading is a focus on the disparity between official, commemorative accounts of Waterloo, and the interest displayed by Stendhal and Sebald alike in the ghastly, inert residue that remains when such accounts fail to capture the Real of war.
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2017. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium non-commercially, provided the original author and source are credited.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of English

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