Later this fall, I'll be teaching W.G. Sebald's After Nature for the first time, in a course concerned with the application of critical theory to literature in several genres: poetry first, then drama, then fiction. Sebald's work is none of these; it's a form that looks like poetry but isn't, somewhat in the way that a to-do list looks like poetry but isn't: in the way that forces us to acknowledge that what we're reading is in fact poetic but not in the way we expect.
The way we expect, the way we're mostly trained (and the way I'll be training the students in the rest of the course, it must be confessed) is primarily concerned with figurative language and structure in a diagrammatic sense. That is, it's the sort of structure that places things in particular spots: an iamb here to begin, a spondee at the end of the line to convey force, couplets, yes yes, or better, aha!, the alexandrine that gives Spenser away before the next stanza and the next book. This is a good kind of structure!
So After Nature is exiting, at least to me, because it has an accumulative structure rather than a diagrammatic one. Smart people can argue about this, but here's what I mean: rather than operating within a poetic framework, Sebald's poem just piles stuff on and keeps moving forward. So this is more like fiction or drama. But here, too, After Nature confounds structural convention by managing a kind of narrative time that Ricoeur would probably deny exists. It has a kind of internal temporality that has nothing at all to do with the historical temporality of the events under discussion.
When I told my students we were reading Sebald yesterday, they looked more excited about this unexpectedly a-formal thing than about anything else on the syllabus. We shall see!