Freud The Uncanny Essay

When he hit on it, Freud struck philological gold and his discovery is very hard to reproduce elsewhere.Freud's interest in the phenomenon comes to the…In modern German, however, the sense of “homey cosiness” is contained within the words .

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In Hoffmann’s mind, the essentially kindly spirit takes on positively demonic qualities.

He describes how an old nurse convinces Nathanael that, if the Sandman finds a child who won’t go to bed, he will steal the child’s eyes to feed his own offspring (the little Sandmen usually cluster together in a nest on the Half Moon and look like peculiarly nasty birds with hooked beaks; they eat human eyes, as other young birds eat worms or insects).7 Nathanael gradually comes to identify the unscrupulous lawyer Coppelius with the Sandman.

The argument is based on the premise that is conditional on not-knowing – on what Plato called doxa, i.e.

“belief not justified by knowledge” – and that the phantoms will vanish in line with the state of not-knowing (this became a widely held view, also defended by Epicurus).

As Freud points out in a footnote, the image of the father in is split into a good being, Nathanael’s natural father, and an evil counterpart, Coppelius – a pattern that is also seen in the pair Spalanzani/Coppola. The supposedly good King Hamlet, whom we encounter only in the shape of an apparition, seems above all to be typically are all father figures, there are certain difficulties about deciding where the boundaries are between them – difficulties that are further complicated by Spalanzani and Coppola jointly creating a daughter, as well as by the fact that Coppelius disappears or, in a sense, dies after the death of Nathanael’s father.

The entire narrative is infused with ambivalence and lack of certainty although, at one level, the reader will not feel any doubts – as Freud emphasizes in a polemic aimed at Ernst Jentsch, whose article “Zur Psychologie des Unheimlichen” (“On the psychology of the uncanny, 1906), claims that the sensation of horror has its origin primarily in the “intellectual uncertainty” arising in encounters with something new and unknown that one is unable to get a grip on or explain in any way.: the word has a sinister ring – not least because of Freud’s famous essay of 1919, “The Uncanny” – an undertone that I always thought everyone could pick up, perhaps even without any grasp of German. [I am she who is dead, she said / Pick me the holly branch.], and this alone suffices to make the text of critical interest.Straightaway, it seems to create associations with occult phenomena, ghosts, spirit doubles (, from the German), elementals and other apparitions from folklore. The essay has a boundless power to fascinate, which is due in the first instance to the special, focused gravitational force that it emits: “The Uncanny” pulls the reader into an animistic world populated by ghosts, phantoms and spirit doubles, where objects can come to life at any moment and people are subjected to portents of the most wondrous and terrifying kind.Throughout his childhood, Hoffmann’s protagonist Nathanael was tormented – even traumatized – by his imaginings about the Sandman, the German version of the Norwegian Ole Lukkøye or Jon Blund [Ole or Jon Shut-Eye].A series of popular comic books by Neil Gaiman is called , but the characters and stories have remarkably little to do with the German figure.It gives him an evil satisfaction before he vanishes from the scene.The last part of the story reassures readers that Clara is well, married and the mother of two sons. This reflects the son’s conflicted feelings towards the father figure, an Oedipal ambivalence that can also be clearly seen in , although in Shakespeare’s version, the absence of a sharp polarization between good and evil makes the relationship more complex.We soon realize that he must be the frightening creature who caused the death of Nathanael’s father.8 Coppola sells spyglasses and spectacles and, as eventually becomes clear, has manufactured the artificial eyes of the automaton Olimpia, a clockwork wooden doll in the shape of a woman, constructed by a professor Spalanzani, and introduced as the professor’s daughter.Nathanael, who believes her to be alive, becomes so besotted by this artificial creation that he forgets all about his own fiancée, Clara (or Klara)9 and tries by every means to gain the doll’s favour – a satire with touches of absurd black comedy.Norwegian literary critic Henning Hagerup grapples with the notion of the uncanny in European language and literature.He also considers how today Marxist thought poses an unheimlich threat to the glorified, ahistorical arrogance of the capitalistic-neoliberal establishment.


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