chapter  10
11 Pages

The uncanny

The familiar made strange – the uncanny – is inherently melancholy. The distancing of the familiar loads it with an intangible poignancy, the sensation of something disturbing yet strangely appealing in an aesthetic sense. The uncanny is associated with a palpable unease and Freud places it in ‘the realm of the frightening, of what evokes fear and dread’ (Freud, 2003, p.123). So compelling is the strange pull of the uncanny that Freud notes it as one of the rare moments when a psychologist takes an interest in aesthetics. De ning the uncanny vexed Freud, and as he traced its etymology he observed that in many languages there was no word for this special type of the frightening, nding parallels in the eerie and the haunted. The most potent sense of the uncanny was located within two apparent antonyms – the German words heimlich and unheimlich – the homely and the unhomely. There are times, Freud notes, when these terms merge, with homely and unhomely occurring simultaneously, creating the strange sensation of the uncanny.