Sigmund Freud 1919 Essay Uncanny

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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.

3 A survey of the titles given to his essay as translated into a range of languages offers us an overview of the real pitfalls and problems inherent in the task of the translators: Marie Bonaparte’s French version of , which means just about the same as Marie Bonaparte’s take on the Freudian term.

The established English translation is “the uncanny”, an expression that always makes me imagine instructions on a label on “how to un-can”. Besides, all those who have paid attention to what Hoffmann has written know very well that he had a genius for playing on ambiguities – Freud, who is definitely one of the attentive readers, wrote that Hoffmann is “an author who, better than almost anyone else, succeeds in creating gruesome [ occupy many pages in the essay and are, to quote Harold Bloom, “unquestionably his strongest reading of any literary text”, although, as Bloom goes on to say, Freud’s approach shows a few oddities.

He specifically says, however, that there are more opportunities for generating horror in fiction than in reality, and also that his present discussion concerns a variant of that has its roots in rejected or primitive notions.

Horror based on repressed “infantile complexes” should, according to Freud, be seen as a somewhat different proposition, a view that undeniably fits in with his idea that and Freud of course stresses in his analysis of Hoffmann that the reader’s uncertainty gradually disappears: what happens in the story is real within the framework of the fiction, and not the confabulations of a disturbed mind (unless one refuses to budge from the helpfully diffuse term “unreliable narrator”).In my own case, the word instantly makes me think of, for instance, the encounter between Dante and Virgil in the first Canto of the Mentre ch’i’ ruvinava in basso loco. In the first place, Freud’s “natural explanations” are, as ever, utterly hair-raising and, anyway, the theme contributes to making the reader feel that the entire essay is best told on a dark evening by the fireplace: “The Uncanny” could be categorized as a ghost story lightly camouflaged as rational discourse, or perhaps a spiritualist séance conducted in the name of science: Freud’s role is primarily that of a shaman, discreetly seated at the head-end of the psychoanalytical couch, but actually not quite admitting that he believes in what he elicits.dinanzi alli occhi mi si fu offerto chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco. The closest rendering of the essay’s key concept in Norwegian is (cf.Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism5 In order to deal in more detail with the problematic aspects, I am going to follow Freud’s example and begin by outlining the plot of Hoffmann’s story, which I would obviously urge everyone to read.TA Hoffmann, Nachtstücke ("Night-time Stories"), Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben, 2nd ed,…With regard to the latter in particular, he is at least as preoccupied by what is written in the context of (Grimm), i.e.“confiding, friendly, trusting”; other perfectly possible versions include “comfortable” and “cosy”.The poor student’s response to this revelation is a complete mental breakdown followed by a long illness, but he eventually comes to his senses and is reunited with Clara.The couple climb the town hall tower in their hometown one day and Nathanael uses one of Coppola’s spyglasses to take a closer look at what Clara has described as a strange-looking “grey bush that truly seems to be advancing towards us” (Hoffmann, p. The young man is gripped by madness and the story ends with his leaping from the top of the tower, an act watched by the lawyer Coppelius – he has mingled with the crowd below.: 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.


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