(26) Uncanny - Thomas Prendergast, Department of English
You are alone in a city to which you have never been. Walking down a narrow street you suddenly feel as if you have been on this very street before. You turn off on to another street hoping to get rid of the feeling. You wander for a while and without asking directions find yourself on the same street. You begin to attract attention. You turn again, but once again find yourself on the same street...
Freud characterizes the uncanny as “nothing new or strange, but something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.” It is a weird moment of intellectual hesitation when other oppositions begin to break down as well. As Elisabeth Bronfen puts it, “whether something is animate (alive) or inanimate (dead), whether something is real or imagined, unique, original or a repetition, a copy, cannot be decided.” In this seminar we will enter the strange world of the uncanny and attempt to understand how we feel the uncanny, what it means for us and how it is elicited. We will, of course, read a number of texts that theorize the uncanny (Freud, Nicholas Royce, etc). But we will also examine the cultural and social significance of the uncanny in the works of E.T.A. Hoffman, Daphne DuMaurier (among others), uncanny films (such as those of Alfred Hitchcock), the theories of the robotic professor Masahiro Mori and artistic installations by artists such as Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde.