What is the main point Freud argues in his psychoanalytical essay "The Uncanny?"

1 Answer | Add Yours

belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

One of Sigmund Freud's main themes in "The Uncanny" was to draw attention to the uneasy feelings created by repetition of thoughts, places, or ideas. In this sense he predated the concept of Déjà vu, where a person believes to have experienced something before, but in different circumstances. Freud mentions the work of author E.T.A. Hoffman, who used uncanny themes in his stories, and claims that Ernst Jentsch, who pointed out the mechanical woman of "The Sandman" as the uncanny element, overlooked other important image:

The factor of the repetition of the same thing will perhaps not appeal to everyone as a source of uncanny feeling. From what I have observed, this phenomenon does undoubtedly, subject to certain conditions and combined with certain circumstances, arouse an uncanny feeling, which, furthermore, recalls the sense of helplessness experienced in some dream-states. 
(Freud, "The Uncanny," www-rohan.sdsu.edu)

In Freud's model, the uncanny is less a function of the appearance or behavior of an inhuman thing, but of the attempt to appear human and "double" something familiar. In this case, the inhuman doll acts as a woman and fools some people, while others are disturbed by its apparent attempt -- and failure -- to appear human while in fact being something else. The unnatural repetition is more uncanny than the actual object, which may be harmless; the feeling that something is striving for a human's place in the world is somehow worse than its mere existence.


We’ve answered 317,673 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question