Melancholy, Topography and the Search for Origin in Ingeborg Bachmann’s Drei Wege zum See

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Bachmann's Drei Wege zum See is a text insistently preoccupied with questions of identity, origin and origination. Operating along a topographical structure that both frames and drives the narrative, its concern is a walking through personal and collective history in search of an elusive point of origin. This attempt is always necessarily melancholic, standing under the perennial threat of missed or failed homecomings. Using psychoanalytic conceptions of psychic topography and Walter Benjamin's conception of origin, this essay explores the intersections of memory, place and identity in Drei Wege zum See, as well as drawing on related theories of melancholy and nostalgia. The present article builds on previous explorations of identity, intertextuality and collective memory in Drei Wege zum See, shedding a new light on these through consideration of the text's psychotopographical preoccupation. I explore how an attempt to reconstruct a personal narrative with the aid of a topographical frame is one that will always resist totalisation, where reconstruction may only ever be partial, never complete. Finally, I argue that topographical melancholy is a highly productive mode of identity formation, serving to subvert and overturn falsifying constructions of personal and collective identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-173
Number of pages17
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


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