Freud’s “Uncanny” (a week-one question)

Share some thoughts about Freud’s essay in relation to Stevenson’s novella. First, what moment do you find most engaging in Freud’s essay, and why does it interest you? Secondly, point us to a passage in Freud that you recognize as closely sharing an interest with Stevenson’s novella. Characterize the interest that they share: a preoccupation with what, precisely? Finally, imagine for us a way in which we could use Stevenson’s novella to complicate or to extend Freud’s theory of “the uncanny.”

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9 Responses to Freud’s “Uncanny” (a week-one question)

  1. anjlie says:

    Freud illustrates very important points in “The Uncanny” he does this by categorizing it into three parts. (The definition of uncanny, examination or understanding the experience of uncanny and the effect of the uncanny) He explains the uncanny as something frightening to us. In the English dictionary uncanny means “strange or mysterious especially in an unsettling way. I felt that it is really hard to explain what frightening can be to one individual because everyone can have their own opinion as to what can frighten. He takes the root word of uncanny and through a detailed analysis he compares it to the german word “unheimlich”. He shows readers that uncanny is related to something that is unfamiliar. In society even in literature there is this reoccurring theme that triggers our fears making it unfamiliar to us therefore causing us to believe that it is scary. This makes it harder for readers to draw a line between what is reality and what is unreality.
    The uncanny is a subject of aesthetics because it deals with feelings and emotions. But at the same time aesthetics rejects the study of uncanny “not merely the theory of beauty but the theory of the qualities of feelings.” Therefore “aesthetics “prefers to concentrate on beauty and on more positive emotions and neglecting fear. One comparison I saw between the two literatures works is the ideas that fear is only felt once. Freud gave me this impression when he states “I will say at once that both courses lead to the same result the uncanny is that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us once very familiar”. This same idea is present when Utterson describes Hyde. As he states “he is not easy to describe….I never saw a man I so disliked and yet I scarce know why….he gives me strong feeling of deformity” Even though Hyde is described to be a man there is something supernatural about him therefore resulting in the same unfamiliarity.
    Both of these works do present more similar ideas. They give the reader a better understanding of what uncanny can be like for example familiar (something we do not fear) and unfamiliar (something we do fear). They both illustrate the ideas of supernatural and spooky feeling a reader can get from reading such strange things. The essay was a bit more harder to comprehend because I did not read every literature piece Freud presents but other than that his ideas were easily understood therefore giving me an understanding of what was in the novella and why certain characters felt the way they did.

  2. Sigmund Freud brings up some perplexing points in “The Uncanny”, particularly in explaining the notion of “unheimlich” — wherein one can observe the discrepancies of translation, both in the literal sense and the translation of experience. He begins by the suggestion that the “uncanny” almost takes the role of opposition when juxtaposed with aesthetics, which particularly focus on the relative “beauty” of visuals. The notion of the “uncanny” not only serves as an opposition, but extends its scope not only to the visually “frightening” (or otherwise), but also the “uncanny” experience. He writes, “…the uncanny is that class of frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar” (825). He suggests that the “uncanny” thwarts a notion, object, or subject of familiarity, proceeding then to encompass that subject with a kind of unsettling feeling, thus evolving the notion or otherwise into something that is frighteningly and strangely, unfamiliar. He proposes that one must “translate” oneself into the feeling in order to fully experience it. The “uncanny” holds itself in exclusivity — suggesting that it is seemingly only experienced once, for when one “translates” oneself into the feeling of that circumstance, in consequence, one then negates that notion unfamiliarity, thus making it familiar to oneself. Freud is really trying to explain that the uncanny feeling can really only be felt once by the person. The part of the novella that this most coincides with is the introductory scene where for the first moment where Utterson lays eyes upon Hyde; because he has never seen such a grotesque figure in his life before this moment. There is a particular moment when this entire happening between Hyde and the young female does very much jar his sensibilities. He refers to him as some damned Juggernaut which already has the super natural tone very much in the word; seeing how Juggernauts larger than life destructive creatures. The two texts work well with each other because the idea of the uncanny is very evident in “The Strange Case” because every action between Hyde and his counterpart is very mysterious and thought-provoking. The novella does an amazing job of extending the work as a whole because of the sheer creepiness throughout the novella.

  3. I think the most engaging point of Freud’s essay is when he compares the uncanny to a dream of some sort. He compares the feeling of something “uncanny” to a dream because you are almost helpless. You can’t do anything really about this feeling and it is as if you are somewhat stuck in a situation. I take the word uncanny and I relate it as feeling uneasy or confused. You are not quite sure how to feel or what is coming next, which is pretty frightening to say the least. Although this part was not really a big part of Freud’s essay, I felt like it really did give me the feeling of what uncanny is. It’s a terrible when you are helpless in a situation. Not being able to run from an evil figure in a dream is even worse.

    I compare this to the scene when the girl gets trampled by the “Juggernaut”, better known and Jekyll’s evil twin so to speak, Hyde. As a bystander watching this, you feel helpless yet you have an eerie feeling that comes over you. “…the two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground. It sounds like nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see” (33).

    Both the novella and essay are very similar. Both give the reader a sense of what is “uncanny” or something that is unexplainable. I think that you can definitely extend Freud’s theory with this novella considering both walk hand in hand with each other. Both share similar ideas as well as thoughts in regards to the scary feelings literature leaves the reader feeling. I think you can extend Freud’s piece with examples from the novella. Freud could explain certain events and compare it to what uncanny is.

    • Hong Man says:

      I have never thought of Enfield’s account of that episode as something that’s terrifying or uncanny until now. I always thought of it as quite a roundabout way of introducing Hyde– Overlaying narrative with narrative. But the trampling of the child does create a very poignant image in our minds of the kind of monster we expect Hyde to be. Perhaps, because Enfield was too vindictive in his anecdote, he inevitably handicaps the effect of the uncanny. I do love the usage of the word “Juggernaut”, seeing how short Hyde really is. I still question the purpose of the confrontation that follows. Is it to reveal that Hyde is remorseless for the wrong that he had just committed? Or more to glorify Enfield for his heroics in confronting Hyde and exacting justice? I feel like this scene is being used as a setup for the later scene where Enfield sees Hyde walking into Jekyll’s house, which is the the point where connections between Jekyll and Hyde are beginning to be unraveled.

  4. Tiffany says:

    In The “Uncanny” , by Sigmund Freud the term “uncanny” is looked upon as something negative , not carrying beauty or grace but something or someone that may be presented as fearful. It leaves one with an eerie creepy like feeling. (Freud 19) Freud states that we can call not only feelings uncanny but also living things such as people.
    This same feeling is presented in Stevensons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as per page 39 in the description of the town although mentioning a church giving a safe peaceful feeling you are also introduced to the “gross darkness of the night ” yet again portraying an uncanny feeling . Humans are not comfortable with the unknown or what is left in the dark

  5. cecilew says:

    I felt that the most engaging part of Freud’s essay was the retelling of Hoffman’s tale because there was a concrete example to refer to for the presence of the uncanny. This interested me because I was able to pick up on the uncanny elements in the tale and understand that they were the product of simultaneous familiarity and unfamiliarity. This occurred when Coppelius and Coppola had similar names and it was further supported by the fact that both characters mentioned the eyes. This resemblance between the Coppelius to the story of the sandman and then of Coppola to Coppelius exemplified that border of the familiar and unfamiliar on which the uncanny lies. I also thought this portion of the text was interesting because it allowed me to draw parallels with The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde pertaining to the idea of something familiar becoming altered to have strange new characteristics. This then seems to indicate that the interest that Stevenson and Freud then share is the preoccupation with something becoming unfamiliar, that is, in some way changed but also not wholly unrecognizable. This is seen when Utterson reads Dr. Lanyon’s narrative which states that Dr. Jekyll’s journal made mention of the word “double” countless times and then witnesses the transformation from Hyde to Jekyll. I feel like Stevenson’s novella could complicate Freud’s theory through the implementation of a substance used in altering the characters and producing an uncanny result. It seems to me that situating the uncanny in a realm where, though still fictitious, the effects produced have a distinct source makes it so that there is a way to explain the uncanny and appears to me to be a departure from what makes a thing uncanny as described by Freud.

  6. RachelE says:

    In Freud’s the “Uncanny,” I found the definitions of the words heimlich and unheimlich very interesting. What interested me the most, however, was the fact “that among its different shades of meaning the word Heimlich exhibits one which is identical with its opposite, unheimlich” (Freud 27-8). Freud concludes part one of the “Uncanny” by stating that “heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops towards an ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich” (30). In a way, Freud is playing with the idea of the “known” and “unknown,” or “familiar” and “unfamiliar” coinciding, thus creating something uncanny.
    When reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the description of Mr. Hyde’s physical appearance seems to evoke the idea of the uncanny. When Mr. Utterson first meets Mr. Hyde, he is bothered by something about Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde is described as giving “an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation…but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and dear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him” (Stevenson 42). Mr. Utterson cannot pinpoint what it is about Mr. Hyde that makes him uneasy and exclaims, “There must be something else…There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, that man seems hardly human! (42). This ‘not knowing,’ this coinciding of a deformity without a malformation becomes a facet of the uncanny in the novel and causes Mr. Utterson much displeasure when trying to figure out Mr. Hyde’s mysterious existence .

  7. Both Freud and Stevenson writings were creepy. Stevenson had me on the edge of my seat when Mr. Utterson and Poole were trying to figure out if Dr. Jekyll had been kilt by Mr. Hyde. I am usually uncanny about things, Mr. Hyde gave me the creeps after Poole saw him kill the man in the street. Also after Mr. Utterson approach him when he was opening the door, Mr. Hyde was too mysterious in that scene. It was as though he was terrified his identity would be revealed. Almost the same in Freud “Uncanny”, the sand-man seem t be the reason behind all wrong doing. Most child(ren) believes that the sandman is put to sleep, a peaceful sleep. No one is thinking the sandman would cause any harm. The sandman as well as Mr. Hyde is not far away when there’s a mystery.

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