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Emigrants Project

Page history last edited by Alan Liu 5 years, 8 months ago

The Emigrants Project


Team Members: Britta Gustafson, Dana Solomon, Brianna Paulson, Gabe Cabello


The project

This is a map of The Emigrants, by W. G. Sebald, viewable with Google Earth, a free program for navigating a detailed satellite-image map of the world. It is a Google Lit Trip: a set of markers with information about places in the text and connections between those markers.


Download the files

Dr Henry Selwyn (Britta)

Paul Bereyter (Dana)

Ambros Adelwarth (Brianna)

Max Ferber (Gabe)


To explore these files, open them in Google Earth (downloadable here).



The narrator's paths are white, Selwyn's are orange, Bereyter's are brown, Adelwarth's are light blue, and Ferber's are bright blue.

Walking has a path width of 1, horses are 2, trains are 3, cars are 4, ships are 5, and airplanes are 6.

Paths representing the present are at 100% opacity, 1990s at 90%, 70s-80s at 80%, 50s-60s at 70%, 40s-50s at 60%, 20s-30s at 50%, and before that at 40%.




The book

The Emigrants contains four extensive narratives of Germans in exile. As each character has some kind of interaction with the narrator (who may or may not be Sebald), the narrator recounts the character's emigration travels in detail, including black and white photographs.


Dr Henry Selwyn

The narrator begins in England, checking out an old house where he meets Dr Henry Selwyn, an odd hermit. The narrator moves into the house and one evening Selwyn's friend visits and the two gentlemen show slides of their travels. Selwyn tells of a friend he had in Switzerland who disappeared, and later he tells the narrator his emigration story. Months later the narrator learns that Selwyn has killed himself, and years later the narrator notices an article in a newspaper that says the remains of Selwyn's Swiss friend have been found.


Paul Bereyter

This narrative focuses on the narrator's memories of his recently deceased primary school teacher, Paul Bereyter. The narrative follows the deceased teacher's movements around Europe during the years leading up to, and during the Third Reich.


Ambros Adelwarth

Sebald's vague memory of his uncle leads him to inquire about his life. Through the memories of Sebald's Aunt Fini, Uncle Kasimir, as well as Ambros's own pocket diary, Sebald learns of his eccentric relative and the many travels he made after fleeing his native land of Germany.


Max Ferber

The narrator meets Max Ferber when he decides to go study in the city of Manchester. Here he runs into the middle-aged Max, a war veteran. While admiring Max's work as a painter, the narrator befriends him and learns of his travels.


Why map it?

Better understanding of the book's context and setting

Visualization of distance and geographical data

Illustrating the experiences of the characters

Bringing book to a wider audience via distribution on Google Lit Trips website



Representing time along with space

Multiple layers of travel

Reductionism: leaving out themes and symbols

Political maps may have been different when the book's events took place



Turned out to be a "close reading" exercise even though it initially seemed like "distant reading"

Early parts of the story overlap geographically with later parts of the story, so reading the map can give away endings

The maps do help visualize locations (for example, farmland vs. mountains) and distances (for example, England, Crete, and Lithuania)

Google Earth has a frustrating user interface





Annotated Bibliography: "Screencasting Strategies", two chapters of Understanding W.G. Sebald, "No Foothold: Institutions and Buildings in W.G. Sebald's Prose", "Maps" from Graphs, Maps, Trees

Research Report: "Blending Fact, Fiction, Allusion, and Recall: Sebald's 'Literary Monism'" from Understanding W.G. Sebald



Annotated Bibliography: "Google Lit Trips", Google Earth, Understanding W.G. Sebald, Mobile modernity: Germans, Jews, & Trains, Camtasia Studio

Research Report: Google Earth



Annotated Bibliography: "Google Lit Trips", Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, "The 'Sixth Emigrant': Traveling Places in the Works of W.G. Sebald", "Prose of the World: W.G. Sebald's Literary Travels", Camtasia Studio

Research Report: Camtasia Studio



Annotated Bibliography: Exploring a Present That Is Invaded by the Past, Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking, Biographical Essay: Winfried Georg Sebald, Google Earth Thrills With Photos, Stunts, But How Practical Is It?, "Easy Video Capture"

Research Report: Video Capture


Emigrants project team


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