ABSTRACT

This article reads W. G. Sebald’s Vertigo and Tom McCarthy’s Remainder against the backdrop of a perceived obsession with immediacy or unmediated experience in the contemporary cultural logic. Noteworthy examples of this lure of immediacy include the prevalence of affect discourse in cultural theory, the privileging of unmediated sensibility in art practice and criticism, and the return of realism on the literary scene. While neither novel addresses these cultural instantiations thematically, they each gesture toward a creative process that contravenes the primacy of immediacy. Vertigo exhibits a recognition of the problematic of mediality as constitutive of the novel’s search for form, whereas Remainder stages and critiques the contemporary preoccupation with an immediacy riding on hypermediacy. To a great extent immediacy as a cultural dominant evidences the sweeping power of neoliberalism as accounts of affect and unmediated experience prove amenable to the neoliberal enterprise. However, this article seeks not so much to dovetail its argument to periodizing terms as to call attention to a sustained cultural rationale whose intelligibility demands more than chronological bookending.

KEYWORDS: W. G. Sebald, Tom McCarthy, immediacy, mediation, neoliberalism, affect theory