The “Uncanny” – Sigmund Freud

The Uncanny (1919) – by Sigmund Freud

During my symposium Shaun Hydes recommended reading Sigmund Freud’s The “Uncanny”, unfortunately I didn’t have time or space to add it in, so I briefly looked at online summaries. However it is an area I want to take forward in my final piece, my aim is to create images that are making a comment and put the audience in a reflective position. Creating an Uncanny character/image is one way of doing this. Making the audience uncomfortable enough to question the content.

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This is my exploration into the text of The Uncanny.

Key:
Quote

Page
Reference
My notes
Areas of study I derived from the text

– Aesthetics are vital to explore in regards to uncanny. Aesthetic is usually associated with theory on beauty, but it has much more to do with with the “qualities of feeling.” p.1

– “…given him and uncanny impression.” Freud talks of uncanny as a feeling, much like anyone would talk about a good impression or a bad impression. Uncanny= feeling. p1

– Freud starts by discussing previous writings on Uncanny and the limits of incomplete research, discussing E.Jentsch’s piece “Zur Psychologie des Unheimlichen” in particular.

Intellectual Uncertainty – unable to determine the human nature/ intelligence of a character. Not quite human.

– “In telling a story, one of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton;” – E.Jentsch quote used. Freud openly say that he isn’t 100% accepting of Jentsch’s ideas but points out there is truth in his writings. It just cannot be used as the ONLY reason behind the uncanny feeling, he also later goes on to explore how the dead coming back to life is not always uncanny, it depends on the relationship to reality.

Hofman “The sand man” – “unparalleled atmosphere of uncanniness” Freud now refers to uncanny as an atmosphere rather than a feeling, perhaps it is both, it cannot be defined as one thing as it is not. Freud later uses the sand man to disprove Jentsch’s ideas about something new and feared being uncanny. He points out the sand man isn’t new to the man in the story, he is very familiar  and every interaction with the sand man becomes more uncanny. So perhaps it is the recollection of a feared person that casues the uncanny in this situation.

– “children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and lifeless objects, and that they are especially fond of treating their dolls like live people… the idea of a “living doll” excites no fear at all; the child had no fear od its doll coming to life, it may even have desired it.p.9 – again freud is disproving the idea of Intellectual Uncertainty as the sole reason for uncanny feelings. A child would not feel that their doll coming to life would be fearful or uncanny because they desire it and often wish for it. It makes me think of Toy Story, none of the characters seem uncanny apart from the “bad toys” if something is animated to life but is “good” we might not fear it.

The Double 

– “Hoffmann is in literature the unrivalled master of conjuring up the uncanny.” p.9

– Twins, telepathy, reoccurring faces/events/places, mirrors and shadows – all types of double which Freud shows can evoke uncanny sensations. He then delves deeper into the meaning for this looking at psychology of childhood and self-observation.

– “The “double” has become a vision of terror, just as after the fall of their religion the gods took on daemonic shapes.”p.10 The Jeckyll and hyde effect, the fear of 2 personalities.

– “a feeling came over me which I can only describe as uncanny… an involuntary return to the same situation… feeling of helplessness and of something uncanny… fateful and inescapablep.11 – Freuds personal stories which evoke uncanny, the idea of the double, when something happens again and again within a short amount of time it makes us feel uneasy or uncanny, we recognise something familiar but know it is not meant to happen.

Coincidence

-” “Well, I hope he’ll have a stroke and die.” A fortnight later the old gentleman really did have a stroke. My patient though this an “uncanny” experience.p.12 Humans strive for an explanation of coincidence  some resort to supernatural explanation, religion or magic. Freud see’s this coincidence as uncanny and purely coincidence.

Involuntary repetition & repression

– “for this uncanny is in reality nothing new of foreign, but something familiar and old- established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repressionp.13 

– “Two things account for our conservatism: the strength of our original emotional reaction to it, and the insufficiency of our scientific knowledge about it.p.13 It is often said we fear wat we do not know, in essence Freud is saying this combined with emotional reaction to the object in question leads to uncanniness.

Reality and Imagination

– “an uncanny effect is often and easily produced by effacing the distinction between imagination and reality, such as when something we have regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality.p.15 When the line between reality and fantasy is blurred it provokes uncanny feelings.

Fairytales

– “We have heard that it is in the highest degree uncanny when inanimate objects – a picture or a doll – come to life… who would be so bold as to call it an uncanny moment, for instance, when Snow-White opens her eyes once more?p.16 The most powerful point I think Freud makes, it shows how hard it is to define uncanny and you cannot simply say that one act makes something uncanny. uncanny is not a fact it is a feeling and within everyone a certain combination of the themes discussed in this text are what cause uncanniness.

– “As soon as something actually happen in our lives which seems to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny. p17

– “Primitive beliefs are most intimately connected with infantile complexes.p.18 

Within these few pages I see a connection between the fairtytales and reality and Imagination, fairytales open with “Once upon a time in a far away land” the spectator is instantly disconnected from the story by both time and space, therefore the strange events will not effect their lives, it is too detached from reality to have an emotional effect on us.

The main topic of discussion within this text is whilst trying to define Uncanny we cannot define it. Freud taking a psychological stand point looks at examples of uncanny and what evoked the emotion within that case. Each example has to be taken individually as it could use one or multiple reasonings. The text has made me understand the uncanny a lot more and now instead of seeing a photograph and thinking something is strange about it I might have more hope at breaking down what is making it uncanny to me and possibly to others.

Ready Player One: Photography, Alternate Reality and Fiction

Over the course of 4 days I read Ernie Clines New York bestseller novel ‘Ready Player One’. My original intent was to tweet everything I found interesting, but this became imposible, it would have taken me months to read if I tweeted every single thing. I also found myself reading 100 or so pages at a time too immersed into the book to remember to take notes. The theme I found most interesting within the book is the idea of identity, knowing someone so well in a virtual world without ever meeting them. Once Ernie Cline made the comparison that Dungeons and Dragons was the original virtual reality it made me think about the role of this book. Like the protagonist Wade I found myself connecting with people I didn’t know. In Wade’s case they were real people but their avatars might not have represented them, but in my case I felt I became quite intimate with characters who didn’t even exists, all I knew of them was my interpretation of Clines writing. In turn this made me think about how this reflects within photography, in creating something fiction we are creating an alternate reality, wether it be through the more accepted route of gaming and films or through writing and photography. In photography we see all these genres, documentary, fine art, conceptual but why isn’t there a fiction genre like there is in writing? I guess you could argue in some cases there is, Cindy Sherman creates a series of characters all with fictional identities but you would never call her work fiction photography or an alternate reality.

 
Image above ©Cindy Sherman

Photography seems to still have this relationship with reality that it can’t get away from. I would like to over my career help separate this tie. Once you’re established as a fiction producer then you can start to think about sub genres, sci-fi, fantasy, romance etc… By all means photography is about telling a story, but who’s to say that story has to be fact?

Food for thought while I think about what’s my product, leaving university trying to find a voice as a photographer. See my book notes below, I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of anything, games, anime, tv, sci-fi.

  1. On page 16 and hooked already @erniecline #readyplayerone #erniecline #rpg #oasis http://instagr.am/p/U6U0aalDcC/
  2. “I had access to the OASIS, which was like having an escape hatch into a better reality. The OASIS kept me sane.”#readyplayerone #erniecline
  3. “A Gunter rite of passage, like a Jedi building his first lightsaber.” Wade Watts on coding his first Atari game #readyplayerone #gunter
  4. “The lines of distinction between a persons real identity and that of their avatar began to blur.” #readyplayerone #quote #oasis #erniecline
  5. “In a way, these old role-playing games had been the first virtual reality simulations.” #dungeonsandsragons #dandd #readyplayerone #quote
  6. Just finished level one. Damn this is a good book. meant to be reading it bit by bit. But just read 150 pages in one go #readyplayerone
  7. “It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs in the Titanic and everyone knew it.” #readyplayerone #quote
  8. 47 pages to go. Lets do this!!! #readyplayerone #finalbattle #oasis #rpg #scifi #erniecline http://instagr.am/p/VH_V7oFDVb/

Freud – The Uncanny – 1919

In response to my symposium, Shaun Hydes said it might be worth looking at the Uncanny. I am not sure wether I am going to be using it because my talk already runs 11 minutes, so instead of doing an in depth analysis on the original text I will look at other people’s summaries and go from there.

David Morris’ notes

The German word “unheimlich” is considered untranslatable; our rough English equivalent, “uncanny”, is itself difficult to define. This indescribable quality is actually an integral part of our understanding of the uncanny experience, which is terrifying precisely because it can not be adequately explained. Rather than attempting a definition, most critics resort to describing the uncanny experience, usually by way of the dream-like visions of doubling and death that invariably seem to accompany it. These recurrent themes, which trigger our most primitive desires and fears, are the very hallmarks of Gothic fiction.

According to Freud’s description, the uncanny “derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown but–on the contrary–from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it” (Morris). Freud discusses how an author can evoke an uncanny response on the part of the reader by straddling the line between reality and unreality within the fiction itself. In The Fantastic, Todorov goes to some length to distinguish his structuralist approach to this genre from a Freudian psychoanalytic approach; nonetheless, he shares many of Freud’s conclusions, especially in attributing literary terror to the collapsing of the psychic boundaries of self and other, life and death, reality and unreality.

Although Freud never mentions Gothic fiction in his essay, and Todorov partially excludes it from his, critics of the Gothic have drawn heavily upon both of them, often in conjunction with one another. Terry Castle’s article on the “other” in Radcliffe’s novels and Peter Brook’s essay on The Monk are two examples of this combined theoretical approach. Although Margaret Anne Doody does not mention Freud or Todorov specifically, her essay–which describes how Radcliffe blurs the distinction between dreams and reality within her novels–seems indebted to both of them. This emphasis on dreams is also essential to any analysis of Frankenstein, a text which is itself the product of a dream-vision and which seems to capture the very essence of the uncanny.

From this I learn that the Uncanny is something that doesn’t quite sit right, but not because it’s unusual to us, most times it is familiar but something has been added, changed or removed to make it seem strange. This is relevant to the activists work I am talking about in my project, they play with context to make sure the audience feels uncomfortable enough to question what they are seeing. I will now re-read my talk and decided wether it’s worth taking something out to add this point in.

Edward W. Said – ‘Orientalism’ : Introduction

One of the key things to do within my Symposium is to not only provide context in terms of Japanese culture, but also in regards to where I stand. I cannot assume to know everything about Japanese culture, as a Westerner I have a very limited view. Something which Edward W.Said explores in his book ‘Orientalism’ Due to time frames I cannot read the whole book. So I have read an online summary of each chapter and chosen the appropriate areas to read.

1. Introduction

2. Imaginative Geography and Its Representations: Orientalizing the Oriental

3. Crisis (MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTER FOR ME)

4. Chapter 3. Orientalism Now
      (Latent and Manifest Orientalism)
5. The Latest Phase

To start with I will read, analyse and appropriate Said’s writings in the introduction.

Key:
Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Quote
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories

Introduction

“The Orient was almost a European invention” pp01

“Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western Experience” pp01

“The orient is an integral part of European material civilisation and culture” pp02

pp02 talks about how America’s understanding of the orient is less dense than it should be.

“By Orientalism I mean several things, all of them, in my opinion, interdependent  Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient — and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist  sociologist, historian or philologist — either in it’s specific or it’s general aspects, is and orientalist, and what he or she does is Orientalism.” pp02

“Orientalism is a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the orient” and most of the time “the occident”.” pp02

Ontological = of the nature of being. Ontology is the studies the nature of being. 
Occident = Western Countries. Used in correspondance with Orient, a word which describes a place/ type of person.
Epistemological = Philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge.

“Orientalism as a Western style for dominating  restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” pp03

“My point is that orientalism derives from a particular closeness experienced between Britain and France” pp04

Vico talks about how men have made their own history, what they know is what they have made. pp 04

Orient and Occident are mad made. pp 05

“In the first place, it would be wrong to conclude that the Orient was essentually an idea, or a creation with no corresponding reality.” pp 05

Disareli – Novel “Tancred” – East=Career. Bright young Westerners would find the East an all consuming passion. pp05

“The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of complex hegemony.” pp 05

Asia and Western Dominance – K.M. Panikkar. pp05

Gramsci – Hegemony pp07

“European Superiority over Oriental Backwardness” pp 07

The distinction between Pure and Political knowledge.
Knowledge about Shakespeare = pure
Knowledge about Soviet Union = political pp09

“The determining impingement on most knowledge in the Contemporary West (and here I speak mainly about the US) is that it be nonpolitical, that is, Scholarly, academic, impartial about partisan or small minded doctrinal belief.” I’m taking “it” to be knowledge.

Impingement = trespass 
Partisan = bias in support of a political party
Doctrinal = Characterised by. Belonging too.

“No one has ever devised a method for detatching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of society” pp 10. This is so important, it’s the area I need to define myself in, like everyone else I am influenced by my surroundings, my circumstances of life will influence my writings.

Overview.

What I like about Said’s method of writing is the amount of definition he offers, he does not Jump into using words like Orientalism or pure knowledge and assume you to understand what he means. The whole introduction seems like Said is providing the context; this is a word, this is my definition and this is and example. It made me understand his terminology and so if I adopt this technique I hope I will be able to help people understand the context of my talk.

The last quote is defining of the introduction. It is impossible to separate an individual from their context, even if they are a scholar. In my opinion it’s this individual context which sparks debate and an interesting unique insight into a topic.

Brian Palmer Talk

Here are my lecture notes for Brian Palmer’s Talk with phonar. It’s a really interesting story.

Hear the talk here phonar.covmedia.co.uk

And here are my notes….

  1. DaisyWareJarret
    #phonar conversation with #BrianPalmer my stories were people based stories.

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:26:27
  2. DaisyWareJarret
    in 2002 I left CNN, being in front of the camera isn’t really where I wanted to be #BrianPalmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:31:00
  3. mimchs
    “Digital was transforming the landscape.” Brian Palmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:31:51
  4. DaisyWareJarret
    The American market had much less of an apetite for pictures of daily life stories under occupation #BrianPalmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:33:07
  5. DaisyWareJarret
    “the bang bang” – war photography in america through #BrianPalmer’s eyes #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:34:53
  6. DaisyWareJarret
    I’m not doing the story america wants. We want is good vs bad, my work was more about 24 year olds interacting with civilians #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:38:00
  7. DaisyWareJarret
    I couldn’t develop the story in the time. So by the 3rd trip I was shooting mostly video. #phonar #BrianPalmer

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:40:20
  8. DaisyWareJarret
    I have a responsibility to tell the story as well as I can. But I’m not perfect. #Phonar #Iraq #BrianPalmer

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:41:34
  9. GeneaBailey
    #phonar brian palmer passed up on a 1/4 of £1 million deal because he wouldn’t have a say in what happened to his work

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:41:19
  10. Jenniz8
    When you sign over your footage you sign over your rights #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:40:55
  11. DaisyWareJarret
    Producers are conscious of audience, you end up with mainstream journalism that doesn’t challenge and is almost self congratulatory #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:44:17
  12. DaisyWareJarret
    useful = conscious of the needs of the people i’m writing about. These are people that are more than consumers #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:45:53
  13. DaisyWareJarret
    We were documenting political theatre. The essence is to be transparent about the agreements that you form. #BrianPalmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:50:30
  14. DaisyWareJarret
    Transparency. Integrity. Independence. #TheKey #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:50:49
  15. DaisyWareJarret
    Since I could not eat my integrity it was not a nutritious meal. I had to learn from others. #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:52:39
  16. hlnbck
    pick your apples, don’t wait for them to fall! #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:51:56
  17. DaisyWareJarret
    Sitting in peoples living rooms made the story, not just gathering quotes. The story has to develop organically. #Phonar #BrianPalmer

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:59:01
  18. DaisyWareJarret
    To tell someones story you need to show up and have respect. #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:59:51
  19. DaisyWareJarret
    I don’t just want to find out who this guy was, I want to write him and his community back into history. #FamilyHistory #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:02:47
  20. riajoynes
    understanding the history really helps to connect to the narrative. #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:02:10
  21. DaisyWareJarret
    Being property (slaves), Owning property, Having it taken away. Extraordinary exploration into #BrianPalmer’s Family History #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:04:01
  22. O_Sharpe
    #phonar talk. Brian Palmer. looking for UK based practitioners to track down owners of his great granddad

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:03:57

Brian Palmer’s story is a really strong yet sensitive one, and exploration into his own family could open up many doors, wether they be good or bad. I love the idea that going to physically interact with your subject takes the story to a more intimate level.