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Uncanny Expperience on Film: from the unintentional to the sublime - Essay Example

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Uncanny Experiences on Film: from the unintentional to the sublime. In Nicholas Royle’s exhaustive study, The uncanny: an introduction, he states that, “the world is uncanny” (2003, p. 3). This is quite a large claim that may be hard to grasp because of its vast implications…
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Download file to see previous pages The concept of the Uncanny (throughout this paper, I distinguish the capitalized concept from its un-capitalized colloquial counterpart) was popularized in scholarly circles by Jentsch’s publication of ‘On the Psychology of the Uncanny’ in 1906 followed by Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’ in 1919. Interestingly, the development and popularization of motion pictures was gaining momentum at the same time. The chronological correspondence of the academic dissection of the Uncanny, with its close relationship with psychoanalysis and dreams, and the development of motion pictures, which were perceived as highly uncanny fantastic waking dream sequences, aptly renders the concept and the medium historically entwined associates. It seems that most scholarly discussions of the uncanny begin with a close examination of the connotations and etymological implications of the term. This already poses a bit of a challenge, since the etymology of the German unheimlich/heimlich and the English uncanny/canny cast different shades of meaning onto the discussion. Instead of over-scrupulously attempting to pinpoint the precise nature of the term, I would rather give a general overview of the meaning and its breadth of associations following in the manner of Royle’s inclusive approach to collecting all possible interpretations of the uncanny. The simplest definition of uncanny, which is a succinct conglomeration of the various dictionary definitions Royle presents, is something strange, mysterious, un/supernatural or unsettling (2003). To extend the dictionary definition of the term “uncanny” to include the psychoanalytical concept of “the Uncanny” introduces a sort of paradox; the Uncanny becomes something both strange and yet familiar, too. The uncanny is something consistently different that somehow remains the same. It “entails a sense of uncertainty and suspense” (Royle 2003, p. vii), which arises from confusion of reality and imagination, or incertitude of the boundaries between dreaming and waking. Speaking of boundaries, Royle also comments that the uncanny is often “associated with an experience of threshold, liminality, margins, borders, frontiers” (2003, p. vii). Oftentimes, it is some form of transposition that creates the sense of the uncanny, like something familiar transposed to an unfamiliar setting and vice versa. With all of these rich significations and associations, it is nonetheless crucial to remember that one of the prime characterizations of the concept of the Uncanny is that it is inherently elusive. As Bernstein put so eloquently, “’the Uncanny’ has tended to become a fixed psychoanalytic concept whose descriptive potential overshadows the fact that the uncanny puts in question the possibility of definition itself” (2003, p. 1112). In modern times, fast-paced technological development has significantly contributed to a heightened sense of the uncanny. With the advent of photography people, places, and things were captured in their exact likenesses for the first time. The technology seemingly stopped time, seizing and freezing an infinitesimal fraction of it for posterity, while also providing the ability to make infinite multiples; both being uncanny potentials. After the initial shock value of photography wore off from time and habituation, motion pictures were invented. And so this cycle ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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