ENG4425 – Reading Joseph Conrad and W. G. Sebald: Text and Context

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course will explore a selection of narratives written by two of the most original authors of their generations. A key figure in British and European modernism, Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) has over the last couple of decades become a major reference in postcolonial and cultural studies. Frequently described as late modern, the narratives of W. G. Sebald (1944-2001) are widely recognized as significant contributions not only to contemporary British and European literature, but also to other artistic forms such as photography and film, and to variants of non-fiction such as testimony and travel writing.

Exploring the narrative strategies of Conrad and Sebald, the seminar will pay particular attention to problems and artistic features linked to, and forged through, questions of exile, identity, distance, empathy, memory, loss, violence, solidarity, and uses and abuses of power. The seminar starts from the premiss that the aesthetics and ethics of Conrad and Sebald’s narratives are closely linked. The word “ethics” is here closely linked to “values” (in the plural): ethics indicates the values aesthetically presented in Conrad and Sebald’s narratives. These values may be different both in kind and scope, thus often creating tensions or conflicts related to, and expressed through, the varying views, actions and attitudes of the texts’ characters and narrators. In the narratives of Conrad and Sebald, ethics tends to assume the form of questions – questions asked by the author via the different agents of a written narrative, and questions asked by the reader about the written narrative. That such questions can reveal how limited our perspective is, thus potentially improving our understanding of other human beings’ perspectives and values, is demonstrated by the narratives read and discussed in the seminar.

Learning outcome

After completing this course, you:

  • Have acquired knowledge of the narrative form and thematic concerns of some of the most significant narratives written by Joseph Conrad and W. G. Sebald
  • Understand how important aspects of the two authors’ biographies and writings are linked to each other
  • Can identify and respond to ethical questions asked in, and by, the narratives under consideration
  • Have improved your knowledge of key texts written by two of the most influential and widely discussed British writers of their generations
  • Understand better how narratives can contribute to the production of history and culture


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Seminars, 2 hours per week for 12 weeks. 24 hours in all.

Obligatory activity:

  • A first draft of the term paper turned in by a stated deadline.

The obligatory activity must be approved for you to sit the exam. An approved obligatory assignment is only valid the semester you attend the course.


The form of assessment is a term paper of 12–15 standard pages (a standard page consists of 2,300 characters). References and bibliography comes in addition.

Assessment guidelines

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2019


Autumn 2019

Teaching language