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 modern German, however, the sense of “homey cosiness” is contained within the words .
Freud’s definition of the uncanny starts at this point and his interpretation is illustrated by a quotation from Sanders’s dictionary that strongly appealed to him, and which Sander in turn quoted from the nineteenth-century writer Karl Friedrich Gutzkow’s novel is what one calls everything that should have remained secret, or concealed, but which has emerged into the open.” Indeed, to quote Freud’s own take on the word: “Generally, we are reminded that the word 2 Indeed, not only Norwegian translators struggle to find the right word to encompass the German concept.
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of art, Freud disagrees with this line of thought and writes this about the plot development in Hoffmann’s story: It is no longer valid to speak of “intellectual uncertainty”; we know now we are not to be presented with a madman’s fantastic imaginings, behind which we, full of sober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.
In my own case, the word instantly makes me think of, for instance, the encounter between Dante and Virgil in the first Canto of the Mentre ch’i’ ruvinava in basso loco. In the first place, Freud’s “natural explanations” are, as ever, utterly hair-raising and, anyway, the theme contributes to making the reader feel that the entire essay is best told on a dark evening by the fireplace: “The Uncanny” could be categorized as a ghost story lightly camouflaged as rational discourse, or perhaps a spiritualist séance conducted in the name of science: Freud’s role is primarily that of a shaman, discreetly seated at the head-end of the psychoanalytical couch, but actually not quite admitting that he believes in what he elicits.
dinanzi alli occhi mi si fu offerto chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco. The closest rendering of the essay’s key concept in Norwegian is (cf.
The argument is based on the premise that is conditional on not-knowing – on what Plato called doxa, i.e.
“belief not justified by knowledge” – and that the phantoms will vanish in line with the state of not-knowing (this became a widely held view, also defended by Epicurus).