ELCS6065 - The Uncanny
Value: 0.5 course unit
Tutor: Dr Deborah Martin
Assessment: 3 hour desk examination.
Eerie fantasies, doubles and mirrors,
severed heads, being buried alive, déjà-vu and repetition; in this option on ‘The
Uncanny’, we will explore the wide
impact these strange and unsettling images and human experiences, which were brought together by Freud in an
influential essay at the beginning of the twentieth century, have had across a
range of disciplines and discourses, including literary and film studies,
feminism, philosophy, and queer theory. We will begin with a close reading of
Freud’s text -- a compendium of the weird and the strangely familiar -- as well
as its main intertext, Hoffman’s ‘The Sandman’, thinking about how Freud’s text
itself is an uncanny performance of its own strange subject-matter, whether or
not we agree with Freud’s reading of Hoffman, and questions of supplementarity,
reading and writing as they arise in the interplay between the two texts. We
will then move on to close analysis of a range of other literary texts and
films. Our analysis of Freud’s essay will provide a basis for our understanding
of uncanny motifs and effects in these texts, but we will also consider the way
Freud’s ideas are prefigured and developed by theorists of writing, cinema, psychoanalysis,
gender and sexuality. Over the course of the module we will consider the
uncanniness of vampires, women, texts and images, as well as uncanny
occupations and unhomely homes, and the capacity of art to create uncanny
effects in the reader or spectator. In analysing the primary texts, we will
home in on elements integral to Freud’s uncanny such as the double,
repetition-compulsion, the visual and sound, and investigate how his ideas have
been related to broader questions of politics, modernity and history. We will
come to an understanding of the uncanny not merely as an aesthetic or
psychological matter but as bound up with everyday life, with the social and the
Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:
- Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. by James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1953 ) xvii, 219-252.
- E.T.A. Hoffmann, ‘The Sandman’ in Tales of Hoffmann (London: Penguin, 1982 ).
- Bram Stoker, Dracula (Oxford: Oxford World Classics edition, 1996 ).
- Carlos Fuentes, Aura (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Bilingual edition, 1975 ).
- Vertigo (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) [Film].
- The Holy Girl (dir. Lucrecia Martel, 2004) [Film].
Initial Secondary Bibliography
- Arnzen, M. ‘Introduction’ in The Return of the Uncanny, special issue of Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres 3.3-4 (1997).
- Bresnick, A. ‘Prosopoetic Compulsion: Reading the Uncanny in Freud and Hoffmann’, Germanic Review, 71.2 (1996): 114-132.
- Hertz, N. ‘Freud and the Sandman’ in Josue Harari (ed.) Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (Cornell University Press, 1979).
- Kittler, K. ‘Romanticism-Psychoanalysis-Film: A History of the Double’ in Literature, Media, Information Systems: Essays, ed. John Johnson (G & B Arts, 1997), 85-100.
- Tom Gunning, ‘An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the Incredulous Spectator’ in L. Williams (ed.) Viewing positions: Ways of Seeing Film (Rutgers Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 114-133.
- Rank, O. The Double, A Psychoanalytic Study (University of North Carolina Press, 1971 ).
- Royle, N. The Uncanny (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003) 1-38.
- ‘The Uncanny’ in Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (London: Prentice Hall, 1999) 36-43.
- Todd, J. M. ‘The Veiled Woman in Freud’s Das Unheimliche’ Signs, 11.3 (1986): 519-28.