This essay reads “As Day and Night,” an essay W. G. Sebald wrote about artist and friend Jan Peter Tripp, as a complex and multilayered commentary on the role of both written and visual texts in the author’s oeuvre. It draws on Sebald’s Austerlitz as well as the work of French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty to argue for the centrality of the human gaze in Sebald’s imagination. The human gaze forges a unique form of realism in Sebald, playing a central role in revealing the “metaphysical underside” of objects, which in turn provokes an ethical response in the reader-viewer.

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