Monday, August 15, 2011
Unheimlich, or the uncanny, for Freud, represents experiences that are uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar. It could consist of the return of a repressed past into the present, or the unconscious obtruding into consciousness. He draws on examples on literary examples, such as the Oedipus myth, moments when life and fiction are blurred resulting in life as fiction. It’s also a moment of uncertainty at the intellectual level, where we are rationally uncertain of how to receive something, whether seeing our double, or an inanimate object become life like. Heimlich is the German word for “homely,” or “native,” and thereby Unheimlich is that which is “unhomely;” yet, it is and is not homely or familiar. The term heimlick contains a paradoxical premise for it is what is familiar and concealed. It’s an indefinite concept and defies a straightforward definition. I wonder to what extent, the notion of permanent strangers evokes the uncanny, a movement from familiarity to absolute strangeness. When your idea of a person is shattered to the point of transforming the person into a complete stranger. What is most sad, however, is the permanent stranger turns out to have always been a stranger. Your conceptions were always misconceptions. There’s the risk of questioning yourself, whether in fact you knew this person and whether this sudden strangeness, even animosity, places you under erasure.