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Rethinking the Uncanny in Hoffmann and Tieck


Marc Falkenberg

This stimulating new book challenges Freud’s definition of the uncanny, prevalent in the study of Gothic and Romantic fiction, by reviving the importance of uncertainty in the uncanny. Literary criticism views the uncanny as an expression of the return of the repressed. Falkenberg’s expanded definition includes, but is not limited to, the psychoanalytic and instead redefines the uncanny as a cognitive and aesthetic phenomenon.
Beyond offering a survey of what David Punter has called «The Theory of the Uncanny», this study places the uncanny in the context of the poetological and philosophical background of the Romantic period. In close readings of two stories that have stood at the center of the debate about the uncanny – E.T.A. Hoffmann’s «Sandman» and Ludwig Tieck’s «Blond Eckbert» – the author shows how these texts are constructed as uncanny phenomena in themselves. The study traces fairytale elements, framing techniques, and interdependencies between the fictional productions of the protagonists and their «dark fates» to expose how these texts confront the reader with paradoxical decoding instructions.
This expanded and revised uncanny not only yields new readings of two classic German short stories, it also leads to a better understanding of the cultural soil that nourished the Romantic Movement.
Contents: Freud’s «Uncanny» Re-evaluated – E.T.A. Hoffmann’s «Der Sandmann» - a Story of Persecution Told by a Persecuted Narrator – Clues Confirming the Existence of the Sandman – Nathanael’s Precarious Position as a Writer – Ludwig Tieck’s «Der blonde Eckbert» - the Uncanniness of Indifferent Fate – Paranoiac Structures of Perception in «Eckbert».