A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Some time ago I read Sigmund Freud’s 1910 essay ” The Uncanny ” and I realised that the sorts of ideas and themes that he was discussing were characteristic of the sorts of novels and films that I enjoyed. It’s taken quite a while, but now here’s my blog – I want to discover some of the ways in which uncanny experiences, or their possibility, have been imagined by the novelists, film makers and artists who produce our popular culture.
But first, a little background about what sorts of things Freud considers to have the quality of uncanniness. He identifies the uncanny with a feeling we might have when confronted by something unfamiliar, to which is added a suggestion of the supernatural, a flicker of the mysterious, an enigmatic dimension. We feel that there’s something beyond that which we commonly experience, but we can’t quite make out what it is.
Freud tries to pin down some causes of what we experience as an uncanny moment. The effects of silence, darkness and solitude; doubt as to whether an apparently animate object is really alive, or whether an inanimate thing is not really so; the idea of the double and the divided self; telepathy; the dread of the evil eye; the mysterious repetition of the same thing; fear of dead bodies, spirits and ghosts; the recurrence of similar experiences in a particular place or on a particular date; the fear of losing one’s eyes; magic and sorcery; a confusion between imagination and reality; the fear of being buried alive; and, most powerfully, the idea of the haunted house.
To which I would add the sense of being started at; the eeriness conjured by certain landscapes; confusion arising when the link between cause and effect seems to be out of joint.
Quite a few ideas here, and some of them very strange, but all the more to play with!