Freud The Uncanny Essay

Freud The Uncanny Essay-37
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.

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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.

Coppelius often comes to the house to visit Nathanael’s father, and one evening, in a horrible sequence of events, tries to rob the boy of his eyes.

His father steps in and prevents the deed but is killed shortly afterwards by an explosion in his study, an “accident” probably engineered by Coppelius. Many years later, when Nathanael is a student, he comes across a travelling Italian optician called Coppola.

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.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…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.In the context of art, Freud disagrees with this line of thought and writes this about the plot development in Hoffmann’s story: It is no longer valid to speak of “intellectual uncertainty”; we know now we are not to be presented with a madman’s fantastic imaginings, behind which we, full of sober superiority, can recognize a rational reality and our impression of the uncanny [ in many contexts reaches its most convincing literary form if the author “for a long time does not allow us to guess the conditions he has chosen for the world he has created” (p.266) or if, throughout the narrative, it remains unclear whether we are dealing with natural or so-called supernatural events.[While I tumbled into the depths/ there appeared before my eyes someone/ almost voiceless as though from a long silence] What, has this thing appear’d again tonight? Sverre Dahl’s translation) – in English, “sinister; uncanny” – but the German word is something of a translator’s conundrum.Freud is clearly very much aware of this because, quite early in the essay, he examines several European languages to find possible, if often inadequate, words that are supposedly equivalent to , before scrutinizing his native language for shades of meaning, drawing on the German dictionaries by Daniel Sanders and the Brothers Grimm.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.

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