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Morten Bartns, Kristiansand, Norway

In the course of the last 40 years, Freuds article entitled Das Unheimliche and printed in Imago, Journal for the Application of Psychoanalysis on the Humanities [Geisteswissenschaften] (Freud, 1919), has gone through a process of radical re-evaluation. On the one hand, the re-evaluation concerns the status of this apparently rather narrow and relatively unambitious text as a part of Freuds oeuvre. Today, the article has denitively emerged from the marginal position it had during the rst 50 years of its existence. In the Humanities departments of Western universities, The Uncanny can be referred to with nearly the same implicit demand for immediate recognition as The Interpretation of Dreams; in literary and cultural studies, the notion of the Uncanny experiences a degree of popularity which can be compared to the one enjoyed by traditional, psychoanalytical concepts a few decades ago. Indicative of this popularity is not only the number of hits produced by searching for the term in humanities databases like the Modern Language Associations Bibliography,1 but also the inclusion of the concept as a headword in recent dictionaries of aesthetics, cultural studies and literary criticism. Book-length studies dealing with the subject include Nicholas Royles (2003) successful, 340-page introduction, and a volume by Anneleen Masschelein (2010, forthcoming), especially dedicated to the conceptualization process which has formed (and forms) todays ways of using the term.
1. On 21 September 2009, a MLA Bibliography search for uncanny Freud yields 112 results, a few fewer than unconscious Freud (131). For comparison, Oedipus Freud gives 84 hits, castration Freud 25.
MORTEN BARTNS is a Doctoral student at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway, working with a project that deals with metaphors of coldness in Renaissance and contemporary literature. Previous publications include a book about the critical reception of Richard Wagners Tristan und Isolde and an article about satirical elements in Torquato Tassos Il re Torrismondo. Address for correspondence: Institutt for nordisk og mediefag, Universitetet i Agder, Serviceboks 422, N-4604 Kristiansand, Norway. [morten.]

Psychoanalysis and History 12(1), 2010 Edinburgh University Press




Alongside this quantitatively measurable change in the perceived relevance of Freuds article, a drastic re-evaluation of its content has taken place. Whereas the efforts to continue Freuds line of thought from within the conceptual framework of traditional psychoanalysis (e.g. Batail, 1997; Bergler, 1934; Feigelson, 1993) have received relatively little attention, the application of theory and methodology from the humanities in re-readings of The Uncanny has resulted in a new, interpretive paradigm. A central feature of this paradigm is an interpretive practice where Freuds article is expressively read against the grain. Thus the hierarchical relationship between psychoanalysis and the humanities intimated in the subtitle of Imago appears to have been overturned. Todays common views on The Uncanny and the notions of the uncanny, canonized in works like Royles book, are primarily the fruits of applied humanities, and, more precisely, of applied deconstruction. Like any other object of ideological contention, deconstruction cannot be described with a serious claim to impartiality, and the seemingly neutral statement that deconstruction is (was?) a school of thought with certain, preferred methods is either nave or covertly polemical. With a signicant, ironical distance to the mechanistic connotations of a term related to Heideggers notion of Abbau [un-building, dismantling], proponents of deconstruction would rarely without reservations agree with the notion of its applicability as a method in the humanities. This terms potential for polemical use comes from the discrepancy between its historically determined meaning and the self-image connected with the so-called deconstructive practice, which would rather see itself as the application of a group of loosely connected reading strategies, polemically intended to reveal and question the metaphysical tenets or presuppositions of canonized texts from Western philosophy and literature. With this declared objective, deconstruction places itself in a dominant, European tradition, expressed with more brutal imagery not only in Nietzsches philosophizing with the hammer, but also, for example, in early 19th century descriptions of Immanuel Kant as the all-pulverizer [Alleszermalmer]. The process that has brought The Uncanny to its present fame illustrates the process of double, cultural translation that is characteristic of deconstruction in its prevailing, Anglo-American and British varieties. As a movement of French avant-garde philosophy commonly associated with the disillusionment following the events of May 1968, early deconstruction shows a particular interest for intellectuals writing in German Husserl, Heidegger, Marx and, not least, Freud. This interest has sometimes also from within the early, deconstructive movement been seen as caused by the failure of rationalistic, French intellectual life to relate to the late 18th and 19th century movement of (primarily German) Romanticism (Cixous, 1974, pp. 9ff.). From the early 1970s, deconstruction experiences a translatio studii that not only takes it from a marginal position in France to dominant



American institutions like Yale University, but also changes its primary, academic afliation from philosophy to literary criticism. This change of academic afliation has, in its turn, been associated with the predominance of an anti-historicist and Kantian tenor of Anglo-Saxon philosophy, a predominance that allegedly deprives philosophers of the cultural position they hold in countries where Hegel was not forgotten (Rorty, 2009, p. 168, n. 6). In the case of The Uncanny, this process of re-location can be followed closely from Jacques Derridas (1970) passing remarks in La double sance [The double session], via a few, inuential deconstructive readings of Freuds article, to the terms current use in Anglo-American and British literary criticism and cultural studies disciplines where the inuence of deconstruction has diminished signicantly since its acme in the 1980s. The reading strategies commonly associated with deconstruction have a few, noticeable parallels with the interpretive practice of psychoanalysis. One example of this parallelism can be seen in the psychoanalytical, heuristic process by which hierarchical structures formulated in commonly accepted, binary oppositions like normal/pathological, conscious/unconscious are questioned. Freud challenges these structures by stressing the importance (i.e. the heuristic and, in most cases, historical and ontological priority) of the second, hierarchically subordinated concepts. Thus, to use a slightly stultifying example, sanity can be seen as only a particular determination of neurosis, a neurosis that accords with certain social demands (Culler, 1982, p. 160). In the case of Derrida, a similar process of identifying and questioning hierarchical structures lies at the heart of the philosophical practice, for example, in his discussion of the relationship between voice and writing [criture]. A perhaps more interesting parallel between psychoanalytical and deconstructive, interpretive strategies concerns the relationships that are implicitly established towards their respective interpretanda. Because of the shared interest in (different concepts of) repression, not only as an endopsychic mechanism, but also as a prerequisite for societal and intellectual intercourse, both present themselves as revelatory practices that, frequently in contentious opposition to the explicit statements of their objects of interpretation, attempt to disclose the hidden elements which through having been repressed are seen as exerting their surreptitious inuence. In the case of psychoanalysis, these repressed elements are relatively concrete and readily delineable. As for deconstruction, the notion of repression is universalized, but de facto tends to concern metaphysical issues grounding in the inescapable fallacy commonly referred to as logocentrism, a word the Oxford English Dictionary denes with expressions so renedly polemical that they deserve inclusion in a note,2 but which, according to a more sympathetic
2. The belief that the rational analysis of text and of its articulation through language is central to the meaning of being; hence, any system of thought in which the analysis of



interpretation, can be seen as referring to the process where a discourse produces its meaning by implicitly establishing some external authority or centre. As interpretive practices purporting to bring forth what has been repressed, both psychoanalysis and deconstruction tend to approach the overtly formulated statements of their interpretanda with marked suspicion. From a rhetorical point of view, this suspicion has shown itself to be a highly effective, argumentative device, cunningly used by Freud in The Uncanny, e.g. in a crescendo which starts with the statement that he is not fully convinced (Freud, 1919, p. 303; cf. Freud, 1955[1919], p. 226, translation altered by the author, M.B.) by the explanation of uncanny feelings given by his predecessor in this eld of research, Ernst Jentsch, and which concludes with a radical re-interpretation. However, from a heuristic point of view, this argumentative device becomes problematic when it develops into a rhetorical topos, which in its turn acts as a formative element in the construction of scientic or critical discourse. The extent to which this may happen in Freuds own interpretive practice cannot be discussed here. In the numerous, deconstructive readings of The Uncanny, the workings of this topos the suspicion of something being repressed by the explicit statements in Freuds text and the subsequent revealing of what was repressed can be observed in some detail; as I will attempt to do in the following sections of this article. Rather than endeavouring to measure the deconstructive reception of The Uncanny against the extra-textual authority of the authors intended meaning, his person etc., my approach focuses on the awkwardness caused by the use of this topos on a rhetorically rened, highly self-reexive and, not least, witty text. This focus may appear to bring my approach close to a well-known deconstructive practice where previous deconstructive readings of canonized texts are criticized because of their alleged, inadvertent adherence to a metaphysical notion, conspicuous (or at least revealable) because of its implication in a rhetorical structure, a verbal gesture, etc. Without denying this relationship, it should be stressed that the awareness of the pitfalls of interpretation is a prerequisite for any interpretive practice worthy of academic interest. To conclude this introduction, a few words about The Uncanny. At the beginning of his notoriously desultory article, Freud introduces the uncanny as a rather remote and neglected aesthetical subject, which, however, presents some points of interest for psychoanalysis. Taking linguistic usage as his point of departure, Freud starts by searching for the special core of feeling which justies the use of this particular term. This investigation is followed through in two different ways: rst, by a study of linguistic usage primarily in denitions and examples from the entries
meaning is based upon the analysis of words, symbols, and other external references used to express meaning (OED s.v. logocentrism).



unheimlich and heimlich [secret, homely] in German dictionaries then, by the discussion of a collection of real-life experiences commonly described with the word uncanny. This linguistically-based investigation is used in order to establish a preliminary denition of the uncanny, that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar (Freud, 1955[1919], p. 220). This preliminary denition, which in a recognizable manner overturns the commonsensical notion of the relationship between uncanniness and familiarity, is immediately presented as a paradox, albeit only an apparent one. Freud leads his readers out of this paradox by relating uncanny feelings to processes of repression both in sense of an endopsychic defence mechanism and in the sense of a phylogenetically determined, historical development where archaic (primitive) patterns of thought are surmounted. What has been repressed must at one time have been familiar; in other words, the homely [heimlich] is stealthily made secret [heimlich] through the process of repression. Freud concludes that all instances of uncanny feelings are caused by situations where once familiar, repressed psychic elements are caused to return; thus, when the repressed becomes un-secret [unheimlich], it has the appearance of something frighteningly unfamiliar or un-homely [unheimlich]. This explanation makes it possible for Freud to relate the uncanniness of E.T.A. Hoffmanns short story The Sandman, allegedly caused by its ability to incite the return of repressed castration anxiety, to the uncanniness of surprising coincidences from real life, which can evoke notions of primitive, phylogenetically surmounted superstition. In the last part of the article, some examples which seem to contradict Freuds account are introduced; an explanation concerning the difference between the uncanny in real life and the uncanny in ction is briey outlined, but, in essence, discussions exploring this and similar distinctions are left to the students of aesthetics (Freud, 1919, p. 323; cf. Freud, 1955[1919], p. 251).

The Uncanny and Its Deconstructive Reception

The beginning of the deconstructive reception of The Uncanny can be situated quite accurately in time and place. In March 1970, the French periodical Tel Quel published an article where Freuds article was mentioned in a footnote; some months later, a second article appeared. This time, The Uncanny was mentioned twice in footnotes. The rst footnote is introduced with the cryptic statement that the article is in sum a rereading of Das Unheimliche; the last one contains the likewise cryptic statement suivre [to be continued].3 The two articles together constitute Jacques Derridas La double sance, which was later published in a slightly revised version in La dissmination (Derrida, 1972). These three footnotes
3. Derrida, 1972[1970], pp. 249, n. 25, 279f., n. 44, 300, n. 56.



are, I think, among the most inuential footnotes in contemporary literary criticism. The authority of Derridas footnotes is manifest in the three perhaps most inuential articles on The Uncanny: Hlne Cixouss La ction et ses fantmes (1972), Samuel Webers The sideshow (1973), and Neil Hertzs Freud and the Sandman (1985[1979]). Cixouss relation to French deconstruction is succinctly stated in Derridas praise of her as in my eyes, today, the greatest writer in the French language (Cixous, 2005, bookcover). Webers stance is illustrated by the dedication of his The Legend of Freud (Weber, 2000, new edn) to Jacques Derrida in Admiration and friendship; as for Hertzs article, it only took three years before it had reached the status of being paraphrased and discussed over eight pages in Jonathan Cullers On Deconstruction (Culler, 1982, pp. 261ff.). Apart from explicitly drawing upon the footnotes in Derridas La double sance, the three articles share two features that are frequently encountered in contemporary literature concerning The Uncanny. All the articles are, in different ways, dealing not only with Freuds article and with the (pseudo-)concept of the uncanny, but also with Freud, the author. One important element in the prosopopeia of Cixous, Weber and Hertz is that Freud-the-author is pictured as a person who engages in a futile struggle to reach intellectual certainty about the uncanny. This alleged quest for intellectual certainty is criticized and to some extent ridiculed. For instance, Webers starting point is Freuds use of the word Musterung mustering in English. Freud uses this word in order to describe the process of narrating and discussing the different examples of uncanniness that he has collected. In Webers article, Freuds word Musterung is repeatedly the object of friendly sarcasm, e.g. when Weber states that Freud musters up [. . . ] a double division punning on the double meaning of the latter word (Weber, 1973, p. 1107). In the context of Webers Lacanian approach, his conclusion is not surprising. In the uncanny, Freud has encountered something that cannot be mustered, but must be perceived by looking awry, as Slavoj Zizek (1991) puts it in the title of his popular book. Webers connectedness with Derrida is perhaps also illustrated by his choice of a good example [Muster] Auguste de Villiers de lIsleAdams novel Claire Lenoir (1993[1887]). Villiers was a close friend of Stphane Mallarm, whose works constitute the primary object of interest in Derridas La double sance.4
4. Webers The sideshow is a revised version of a (habilitation) lecture held in Berlin and published in the original German version in 1981. Webers article has an unmentioned parallel in Edmund Berglers article The psycho-analysis of the uncanny (1934). Bergler quotes literary examples from Villiers at length, and his theoretical point of departure is also Webers: Freuds new theory of anxiety, launched in Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety (Freud, 1959[1926]), and its consequences for a new understanding of the uncanny (cf. Bergler, 1934, p. 216; Weber, 1973, pp. 1110f.).



Whereas in Webers essay, Freud is pictured as an ofcer conducting an unsuccessful mustering, Cixous continuously uses imagery from the realm of big game-hunting. From the rst page, Cixous sees something savage in the uncanny, something that can catch the author off-guard. Cixous describes Freuds text as a let serr a tightly drawn net that is used in order to catch the uncanny, much as lions and wild boars were hunted in the same way in antiquity. Later, the uncanny turns back on Freud in a vicious interchange between pursued and pursuer. The metaphorical realm of hunting is also present when Cixous describes the scenery of the chase. First, it is the baroque forest of the dictionary; the hunting process is later described using the verb dbusquer to drive (quarry, etc.) out of its refuge (Cixous, 1972, pp. 199, 200, 204, 206). When Neil Hertzs article Freud and the Sandman (1985[1979]) is mentioned in later secondary literature, epithets of praise are rarely missing. Hertzs complex article uses some aspects of the Freudian concept of repetition compulsion in order to criticize the epistemological model where a sharp line is drawn between scientic metaphors and their alleged representation, and between gurative and literal language in general. Hertz suggests that Freud may have experienced some instances of pure and therefore (according to Hertzs interpretation of Freuds article) particularly uncanny repetition in his private life at the time he was writing The Uncanny. Hertz goes on to suppose that Freud because of the repetitions in his private life might have got a glimpse of the territory between repetition and what is being repeated, between gurative and metaphorical language; a glimpse that for Freuds epistemological stance allegedly must have been felt as being uncanny. This conclusion concerning the vacillating nature of the uncanny which Hertz reaches after a rather fanciful interpretation of the relationship between Freud and his student Viktor Tausk5 also lies at the heart of the perhaps most important metaphorical eld of Hlne Cixouss essay. Here, the
Lacan chooses a similar strategy in his seminar on anxiety (196263), cf. Lacan (2004, pp. 18ff, 53ff.). 5. Hertzs main source for biographical information about the relationship between Freud and Tausk is Paul Roazens controversial book Brother Animal (Roazen, 1969), a work against which Hertz mainly raises stylistic objections (thin writing). Hertz quotes Eisslers (1971) critique against Brother Animal (Eisslers own interpretations are hardly compelling), but still states that the books documentation seems to have been done carefully (Hertz, 1985[1979], pp. 114, 247, n. 12, 114). Concerning Hertzs own documentation, it occasionally leaves something to be desired. For instance, that Freud in The Uncanny proposes the discovery that whatever reminds us of this inner repetition-compulsion is perceived as uncanny is a statement that does not bear the confrontation with the German text. Hertz continues by claiming that Freud, as an instance of the activity of that compulsion, delineates a sequence of triangular relations in The Sandman, an assertion that lacks evidence in any textual version (Hertz, 1985[1979], p. 117).



uncanny is considered as the horror vacui connected to the in-betweens of Western conceptualization processes, and to the fear connected with the experience of the merging of (apparent) opposites, epitomized in the relationship between the male researcher and his subject, which discloses its (grammatical) femininity on the last pages of the essay.6 Thus, in Cixouss opinion, the revenant is considered as uncanny because his presence transcends the dichotomy of living versus dead. In Cixouss words, cest lentre qui sinfecte dtranget [it is the between that is tainted with strangeness] (Cixous, 1972, p. 213). The picture of Freud that is offered in the texts of Cixous, Weber and Hertz is thus rather uniform. Writing about the uncanny, Freud is driven by forces he does not fully understand, forces that undermine the epistemological stance that he tries to maintain and that simultaneously exert an uncanny attraction. This picture is frequently adopted in later literature on the uncanny, as also is the notion that there is something uncanny in Freuds article itself (and in its interpretations as well). In the secondary literature, certain features of The Uncanny are frequently used in order to establish the image of its inherent uncanniness. These include Freuds relationship to the so-called intellectual uncertainty, his three autobiographical stories about the potential uncanniness of repetition, his statement about the uncanniness of psychoanalysis, and his mentioning at the beginning of the article of his special obtuseness in the matter. In the following, I will discuss some inuential, deconstructive interpretations of these passages in Freuds text. My focus is especially on the extent to which these interpretations may be said to be rhetorically pregured in The Uncanny, the revealing gestures with which the interpretations are presented, and the limitations that these revealing interpretative strategies put on the understanding of Freuds article.

Intellectual Uncertainty
With its Julian allusion (came and saw), the discussion of this concept in Nicholas Royles The Uncanny (2003) places itself in the tradition of Webers Musterung. Royles book thus represents the state of research on The Uncanny regarding both the imagery used and the facts described:
Freud is, by his own admission in the opening paragraph of the essay, in a strange place [. . . ] where his only precursor (Ernst Jentsch, author of On the Psychology of the Uncanny (1906)) came and saw and proposed that the uncanny is about intellectual uncertainty or insecurity (der intellektual [sic] Unsicherheit). (Royle, 2003, p. 52)
6. This grammatical feature of Cixouss text (e.g. Cixous, 1972, p. 215) is ignored both in Denomms and Groeplers translations (Cixous, 1976, 2006); a surprising case of sexual repression, considering the feminist argument of Cixouss article.



Anneleen Masscheleins (2005) comprehensive and recommendable article in the German reference work sthetische Grundbegriffe contains a similar description of Jentschs article.7 The accounts of the relationship between Freud and Jentsch that are given by Cixous, Weber and Hertz do not differ much from the ones presented by Royle and Masschelein. All three authors unambiguously attribute the concept of intellectual uncertainty to Jentsch, and much of their argumentation is connected to what they consider to be not only Freuds rebuttal of Jentschs psychological explanation of uncanny feelings, but rather Freuds rejection or suppression of his own feeling of intellectual uncertainty in dealing with the uncanny. To use the wording of Hlne Cixous, this is one of the argumentative and metaphorical nodal points of the early, deconstructive reception of Freuds article and, one might add, of its reception in the realm of literary and cultural studies to this day. In order to nd out what conception of intellectual uncertainty Freud is rejecting in his article, a natural point of departure is Ernst Jentschs (1906) Zur Psychologie des Unheimlichen [On the psychology of the uncanny] an article that owes its standing to its being mentioned in The Uncanny, and that is today accessible in Dutch, English and French translations (1993, 1995, 1998). Considering the descriptions of this article in the current literature, it is somewhat surprising to nd that the phrase intellectual uncertainty does not occur in it. As causes for uncanny feelings, Jentsch mentions, among other things, disorientation, a particular/strange feeling of uncertainty, a dark feeling of uncertainty and psychical helplessness. Jentsch frequently describes the opposite mental state where new and unforeseen events do not cause an uncanny feeling as intellectual mastery, intellectual command etc. Once, at the end of the article and after an extended military metaphor evoking science as a bulwark in the never-ending war, the ght for survival, Jentsch describes this mental state as intellectuelle [sic] Sicherheit [intellectual certainty] (Jentsch, 1906, passim; p. 205). The concept of intellectual uncertainty is, however, a central element in Freuds description of the contents of Jentschs article. Freud uses the phrase six times always when commenting on his relationship to Jentschs notion of the uncanny. Once, Freud even puts the phrase in quotation marks.8
7. In her account of Jentschs article, Masschelein cautiously limits her use of quotation marks (intellektuell[e] Unsicherheit), but still communicates Freuds version (Masschelein, 2005, c. 244). Nobus (1993) seems to be aware of the linguistic discrepancy between Freud and Jentsch but makes no point of it, and replicates Freuds rhetorical device unironically in the second part of his title, implying that Freud makes a kruistocht [crusade] against intellectual uncertainty. 8. Freud (1955, pp. 221, 230 bis, 231, 233, 247). In his translation Strachey disregards Freuds use of quotation marks cf. Freud (1919, p. 307).



However, it is a well-known linguistic convention in Western languages that the use of quotation marks does not necessarily indicate a direct, literal quotation, but may also be used to highlight that a word is being used non-literally or that it is taken from another discursive setting. This makes Freuds text ambiguous for readers who do not know the text he is referring to Freud never explicitly says that Jentsch has used the phrase, but rather strongly suggests it. At rst sight, the slight discrepancies between so-called intellectual uncertainty and Jentschs concept of psychic uncertainty (etc.) may not seem to be of great importance for the interpretation of Freuds article. One might assume that Freud as so often in his writings is quoting from memory, and leave the discussion at that. However, in the literature about The Uncanny, there is a strong tradition for focusing on inconspicuous or marginal elements of Freuds text. Webers focus on the word Musterung has already been mentioned. Another example is J.M. Todds (1986) frequently cited article, where a major point is made of the fact that the rst edition of The Uncanny contains a lapsus calami (or printing error) where the name Schleiermacher is written once instead of Schelling.9 Todds interpretation of this Freudian parapraxis (or printing error) is perhaps not entirely independent of Derridas La double sance. Here, besides devoting three footnotes to The Uncanny, Derrida introduces the term hymen, and Todds point is that Schleiermacher means veilmaker in English.10 In any case, my focus on the seemingly irrelevant question of the difference between intellectual uncertainty and Jentschs notion of psychic uncertainty or lack of orientation has an element of methodical precedence in the literature about Freuds article. The dichotomy that constitutes the conceptual foundation of Jentschs argumentation has psychic uncertainty or lack of orientation on the one side and intellectual mastery or certainty on the other a linguistic practice that Jentsch seems to follow quite consistently. Thus, the adjective intellectual is never connected with uncanniness in Jentschs article, as the concepts appear to belong to different spheres with clear-cut boundaries. Within
9. Perhaps due to a (slight) ambiguity in Stracheys editorial note, Todd appears to be under the impression that Freud does this consistently (cf. Freud, 1955, p. 226, n. 1; Todd, 1986, p. 521). 10. Cf. Derrida (1972, pp. 241f.; cf. Derrida, 2004, p. 223), quoting etymological sources: A tort ou raison, on renvoie souvent ltymologie de hymen un radical u quon retrouverait dans le latin suo, suere (coudre), et dans uphos (tissu) [. . . ]. Lhymen est donc une sorte de tissu. [Rightly or wrongly, the etymology of hymen is often traced to a root u that can be found in the Latin suo, suere [to sew] and in huphos [tissue]. [. . . ] The hymen is thus a sort of textile.] This tissue is addressed throughout La double sance, e.g. as un certain voile interpos ou dchir [a certain veil that is interposed or torn], as la syntaxe [. . . ] du voile [the syntax [. . . ] of the veil] etc. (Derrida, 1972, pp. 205f.; cf. Derrida, 2004, pp. 193ff.).



Jentschs conceptual horizon and in the argumentation throughout his article there is hardly any place for intellectual uncertainty at least not for an intellectual uncertainty that causes uncanny feelings. The intellectual attitude that, in Jentschs opinion, has a prophylactic effect on sentiments of the uncanny is associated not only with high intelligence, but also with emotional detachment. This is why, in Jentschs opinion, women and children are particularly inclined to having uncanny experiences (Jentsch, 1906, pp. 196f.) Jentschs rationalistic and positivistic attitude represents the psychological approach that Freud saw and rhetorically constructed as a main opponent of psychoanalysis. By coining the phrase intellectual uncertainty, Freud not only confounds the elements of Jentschs conceptual world in a way that would have annoyed the author of On the psychology of the uncanny. He also creates a doubly effective polemical tool. Freuds rhetorical device simultaneously appeals to readers with a rationalistic attitude who might (like Jentsch) reject the concept of uncanny, intellectual uncertainty as a contradictio in adiecto, and therefore accept Freuds interpretation and to readers more critical of nave rationalism, for whom the concept of intellectual uncertainty would represent a supercial, positivistic attitude. Furthermore, the phrase intellectual uncertainty with a slight change of meaning could act as an apt summary of the attitude psychoanalysis sees itself as opposing: the uncertainty that is created by a purely intellectual approach to human reality.11 When Freuds quest for the truth about the uncanny is pictured as a mustering, as a wild boar hunt or as a domestication process, Freuds rejection of intellectual uncertainty is taken at face value, and the rhetorical function of the (pseudo-)concept is ignored or repressed. Cixous on one occasion describes Freuds interpretation of Hoffmanns story The Sandman as a reduction of intellectual uncertainty to a rhetorical uncertainty (Cixous, 1972, p. 206). A contrary, but structurally analogous, reductive process may have been at work in the deconstructive reception of Freuds text: Freuds use of intellectual uncertainty is deprived of its rhetorical function in order to be rhetorically functionalized in the articles of Hertz, Weber and Cixous.

11. Freuds rhetorical device is curiously replicated by Weber in his critique of Tzvetan Todorovs (1970) Introduction la littrature fantastique: That Todorov should thus distinguish the uncanny from the fantastic, which, he asserts, necessarily involves an intellectual uncertainty concerning the reality or non-reality of phenomena, is certainly legitimate and indeed only repeats Freuds critique of the psychologist, Jentsch, one of his rare predecessors in the investigation of the uncanny (Weber, 1973, p. 103). The picture is somewhat more complicated. It is Weber, not Todorov, who repeats Freuds critique of Jentsch; a phrase like intellectual uncertainty does not occur in the Introduction la littrature fantastique although Weber apparently suggests the opposite.



Sideshow: Mustering
A similar process of suppression of rhetorical functions can be observed in Webers use of the word Musterung as a leitmotif in his article. A prerequisite for the use of Webers rhetorical device is the supposition that Freud uses the word in a neutral and unreective manner. In my opinion, a more likely assumption would be that Freud in 1919, in the aftermath of the disasters of the First World War uses the military metaphor in a selfconscious and mildly ironical way. The author of The Uncanny must be well aware of the fact that his chaotic gathering of examples of uncanny experiences does not bear much resemblance with the military orderliness of a mustering. Furthermore, Freuds hermeneutical, psychoanalytical approach constitutes the direct opposition to the intellectual, positivistic psychology that might, from Freuds point of view, be described as a failed attempt at mustering mental processes that are, in reality, only comprehensible within the scientic paradigm of psychoanalysis. Webers ironical use of the term mustering suppresses the touch of irony in Freuds wording in order to make a point that is already present in Freuds own, ironical description of the heuristic process conducted in his article.

The Autobiographical Stories

The de-rhetorization that is characteristic of the contemporary approach to The Uncanny can also be illustrated by using some of Freuds autobiographical examples, and the transformation they go through in the secondary literature. The stories which are connected with the uncanniness of repetition are particularly often retold and analysed. In the rst story, Freud tells about how he was once walking through the deserted streets of an Italian provincial town. He nds himself in a quarter of whose character [he] could not long remain in doubt. Freud sees nothing but painted women and realizes that he has reached the red-light district. As Freud tries to leave this part of the town, he gets lost and returns twice to the houses of the prostitutes; at this point, he is overcome by a feeling that he can only describe as uncanny. The second example revolves around let us say the number 62. Seeing this number once or twice on the same day does not, in Freuds opinion, constitute an uncanny experience, however: [I]f we come across the number 62 several times in a single day, or if we begin to notice that everything which has a number addresses, hotel rooms, compartments in railway trains invariably has the same one this will be felt as uncanny. A person exposed to such an experience might be tempted to ascribe a secret meaning to this recurrence of a number unless he is utterly hardened and proof against the lure of superstition (Freud, 1955, pp. 237f.).



After having retold Freuds second story, Cixous makes what in the context of her essay appears to be a brilliant observation. Addressing Freud-the-author, Cixous rhetorically asks what meaning the number 62 might have for a man who is born in 1856, and who in 1919 writes an essay which is haunted by the death drive (Cixous, 1972, p. 211): [T]hen you will be the reprieved author, who escapes the announcement of his end [. . . ]. The effect that Cixous creates here is one of decidedly uncanny recognition: viewed in its biographical context, the choice of a seemingly random number reveals itself as a sign that surreptitiously has pointed towards one of Freuds blind spots. Cixous like many writers after her performs a well-known, psychoanalytical gesture where the results of seemingly free association are interpreted as parapraxes, which are subsequently biographically contextualized in a revealing way. However, Cixouss revealing gesture has two aws. They are both connected to what one might call the appropriateness or the appurtenance of the revelations made. Cixouss biographical interpretation of Freuds use of the number 62 was perhaps new to the French readers who knew The Uncanny through Bonapartes translation (Freud, 1933). However, Strachey makes the same point in a footnote to his English translation of The Uncanny (Freud, 1955). Ernest Jones (1957, p. 427) also mentions this in his biography, which Derrida quotes in La double sance (Derrida, 1972, pp. 279f., n. 44). Applying Cixouss own technique of focusing on suppressed textual elements, one might speculate on the reasons for her omission of a reference to Jones, Strachey or some other biographical source in a text which is not devoid of footnote references, e.g. to Derridas La double sance. A friendly interpretation of this omission might be that the readers impression of the revealing power of this point in Cixouss essay increases when it is presented as new, unknown not only to Freud himself, but also ironically to Cixous-the-author who shares the precipitancy of her sudden discovery with her readers. However, the disclosure of the hidden meaning of the number 62 in Freuds text also raises questions concerning another aspect of the appurtenance of the revelation made. The rst of Freuds autobiographical stories forms part of his discussion of the uncanniness of the repetition compulsion. Freud interprets the walk through the Italian provincial town as uncanny because it makes him observe the workings of this compulsion to repeat. It does not, however, take much psychoanalytical knowledge to see the sexual aspect of Freuds experience and his retelling of it as the result of a process where an obvious explanation for the uncanny experience (the recurrence of a repressed, sexual desire) is changed into a more subtle one (experience or recurrence of the compulsion to repeat).12 Indeed,
12. Cixous makes a similar point in the introduction to her reading of this part of Freuds text: [Freud] masks his language with the type of modesty which exposes him



the interpretation is so patent that readings where the sexual aspect of Freuds example is interpreted navely are rare in the literature on The Uncanny. Such a nave interpretation would be felt as awkward or embarrassing because it would usurp the ironical wittiness of Freuds own text. The self-revealing, ironical aspect of the story would be unjustly turned into an act of repression, and the reader would reveal herself as being on the wrong side of the joke. All Freuds autobiographical stories in this section of The Uncanny share this element of self-revealing irony. The editorial notes in Stracheys English translation, in the German Studienausgabe and in the new French translation (Freud, 1996), which all mention Freuds age at the time of writing, help todays readers understand a comical point that must have been obvious for many readers of Imago, the Journal for the Application of Psychoanalysis where The Uncanny rst appeared. At least, it must have been obvious to Freuds inner circle to which his biographer Ernest Jones belonged at that time. Jones deals repeatedly with Freuds superstition, and also mentions his obsessive relation to the subject of death which was expressed in his habit of parting (tongue in cheek, I presume) with the words: You may never see me again (Jones, 1957, p. 301). Freuds third story has not been scrutinized as thoroughly in the secondary literature as the two rst ones:
Or suppose one is engaged in reading the works of the famous physiologist, Hering, and within the space of a few days receives two letters from two different countries, each from a person called Hering, though one has never before had any dealings with anyone of that name. (Freud, 1955, p. 238)

At a time when a medical degree was a prerequisite for practising psychoanalysis, the mention of the famous physiologist Hering surely met with more resonance than it does today. The Vienna-born Ewald Hering (18341918) was indeed a famous physiologist, and a man Freud had known personally in 1884, Hering had invited Freud to Prague to join him as his assistant (Jones, 1953, p. 255). However, the name could also refer to Ewald Herings son, Heinrich Ewald Hering (18661948), in 1919 himself a famous physiologist today primarily known for his research on the physiology of the heart and the blood circulation.13 It is tempting to assume that Freuds mentioning of Hering is motivated not only by the somewhat amusing name,
comically: the psychoanalyst psychoanalysed in the very study he is seeking to develop (Cixous, 1976, p. 340). 13. Stracheys translation, cited above, disregards the discrepancy between different German editions as to the initial preceding the family name Hering by omitting it. The Imago version (Freud, 1919) has E. Hering; all subsequent German editions mentioned in Stracheys bibliographical note change this to H. Hering. Concerning the relationship between E. Hering and Freud, cf. Stracheys Appendix A to The Unconscious, in Freud (1957[1915], p. 205).



recalling the Pickelhering of English and German low comedy (nor by the fact that herrings tend to form schools). Following the autobiographical lead of the two rst stories, one might draw attention to Freuds well-known fainting attacks, and to the title of the book published by H.E. Hering (1917) two years before The Uncanny: Der Sekundenherztod [Instant Death by Heart Failure]. A person who for whatever reason reads a book with this title, and then receives letters from different persons named Hering (one of them, we might speculate, announcing Ewald Herings death in 1918), would be fully justied in experiencing this as uncanny.14 If we accept the mentioning of Hering as an intra muros allusion to Freuds health anxiety, the issue of its revealing power comes into question. On the one hand, one might see it as another example of the uncanniness of Freuds essay, which would constantly increase as the reader speculating follows its intertextual leads. This interpretation would in some ways corroborate the explicit statements in the deconstructive readings. One might, however, also consider the three stories about the repetition compulsion as structured around the more sombre elements in Freuds mind, and following a classical, tripartite pattern: The increasing subtlety or intra muros character of the allusions made corresponds with the growing feeling of anxiety they may produce in the reader. This interpretation would, however, not go well with the implicit, deconstructive view of The Uncanny as a text that reveals its secrets uncannily and unbeknownst to its mustering or pruning (Cixous, 1972, p. 206) author. Rather, it might point towards a more general, awkward element in interpretations that make use of the revealing gestures so manifest in Hertzs, Cixouss and Webers readings. In the cases I have discussed so far, the revealing gestures of the interpretations double the rhetorical devices already present in The Uncanny. In these cases, the readings appear to disclose what is already open, and their central prerequisite is their factual or rhetorically conjured naivety.

The Uncanniness of The Uncanny

As mentioned earlier, the uncanniness of Freuds essay is implicitly or explicitly a topos of primary importance not only in the three articles considered in this paper, but in the majority of texts dealing with The Uncanny since 1970. The things that happen in the secondary
14. A Hering rarely walks alone. In 1921, Karl Abraham writes a letter to Freud concerning a man who towards the end of 1919 had been Freuds patient, but who had an acute relapse on the trip back from Vienna after the treatment. Abraham wants Freuds advice as to whether he should accept this patient. In his answer, Freud speaks about this as a bad case, and dissuades Abraham from taking the man into treatment. The man was Julius Hering, not surprisingly a real persecution fanatic (Falzeder, 2002, pp. 389A, 390F).



literature the discrepancies detected, the connections discovered, the conclusions drawn tend to do so uncannily. This constitutes a contrast to the tone in Freuds article, where the heuristic process is never explicitly described in such terms. Following the investigative path of the present paper, an obvious approach would be to try to show that the uncanniness of Freuds text is indeed rhetorically pregured in The Uncanny. The current secondary literature contains some statements that could be taken as arguments for such an element of rhetorical preguration in Freuds text. These statements are especially connected to one sentence the one where Freud describes the (alleged) semantic coincidence between the German words heimlich and unheimlich: Also heimlich ist ein Wort, das seine Bedeutung nach einer Ambivalenz hin entwickelt, bis es mit seinem Gegensatz unheimlich zusammenfllt (Freud, 1919, p. 302). Stacheys translation renders this adequately, I think as Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it nally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich (Freud, 1955[1919], p. 226). This rendering is also chosen in all other, complete translations of The Uncanny that I know of. However, beside this way of translating the sentence, another version has acquired some degree of popularity. In recent years, many commentators especially in the English-speaking world interpret the sentence as if Freud here (also) uses unheimlich as an adverb. Thus, in her book Writing Outside the Nation, Asade Seyhan (2001, p. 25) quotes Freud writing that: This little word [. . . ] in one instance of its many nuances, coincides uncannily with its very opposite.15 From a linguistic and philological point of view, translating unheimlich here with uncannily might seem somewhat far-fetched. If Freud meant to say that the process whereby the meanings of the apparently contradictory terms slide together was actually uncanny, then he probably would have expressed this by writing, e.g. unheimlicherweise, and not by using a word that in its adverbial sense (and its connotations) perhaps comes closest to the French vachement (roughly corresponding to darned as used in the sentence She was darned beautiful). In the 1919 edition of The Uncanny, the meta-linguistic use of the terms heimlich, unheimlich etc. is only once distinguished through the use of quotation marks in Freuds introduction to the rst section of the essay (Das deutsche Wort unheimlich [. . . ] [Freud, 1919, p. 298]). Strachey and other translators tend to clarify (and, according to a common, critical view,
15. Cf. also Bernstein (2003, p. 1113): One might even read unheimlich here as an adverb, for the coincidence of a term with its opposite is itself uncanny; Beck (2001, pp. 73f.): As Freud [. . . ] famously pointed out, the etymological evidence suggests, uncannily, that the word unheimlich slides into its opposite, the heimlich, or homely [. . . ]; Mller (1991, p. 133): [. . . ] Freuds etymological description of the reversal of the term heimlich into its opposite, unheimlich, may in itself be read as a description of the dynamics of the uncanny.



unjustly disambiguate) this linguistic practice by adding quotation marks, italics etc. Freuds omission of typographical marking of meta-linguistic utterances might be taken as an argument for both interpretations of the sentence in question. On the one hand, his apparent confounding of metalinguistic and plain uses of the words heimlich and unheimlich can function as an argument for the assumption that it is appropriate to focus on this apparent ambiguity when translating or paraphrasing the essay. On the other hand, Freuds non-distinction between the meta-linguistic and the literal usages also in cases where no one, to my knowledge, has postulated the presence of uncanny ambiguities seems to make it less likely that the assumption of such an ambiguity is appropriate or, in more old-fashioned terms, intended by the author. The words intended by the author bring us back to an issue that is central to the present paper, more so than the question of the meaning of Freuds use of the word unheimlich here, which I leave undecided. The argument revolving around Freuds intentions could be rejected in an elegant way by the same readers who point out the alleged ambiguity of the sentence in question. These readers typically follow Cixous, Weber and Hertz in seeing The Uncanny as a text where the declared intentions of the author epitomized in the attempt at a Musterung are effectively and uncannily undermined by the nature of the subject in question. In this context and the great majority of contemporary, critical commentaries on The Uncanny position themselves in the wake of Cixous, Weber and Hertz the statement that the ambiguity of the sentence is not intended by the author is actually more poignant than the assumption that it is. This is because the former statement is more consistent with the picture of Freud as a hunter who is entangled in his own net. The question of the intentions of the author thus seems to be of a certain relevance to the deconstructive approach to The Uncanny, but in a derived, negative form. Freuds essay also contains another description of a heuristic process where the word uncanny is used. To many people, Freud (allegedly) says: Psychoanalysis has itself become uncanny, recalling the words of the mother of a young girl he once cured. Freuds account for the causes of this perception of psychoanalysis is related to his explanation of uncanny feelings towards epileptic attacks or towards what the founder of Psi Alpha here rhetorically appropriating the term from popular medicine and thus putting on the mask of the laymans position simply calls Wahnsinn [madness]: The layman sees in them the working of forces hitherto unsuspected in his fellow-men, but at the same time he is dimly aware of them in remote corners of his own being (Freud, 1957, p. 243). Freuds explanation is here as several commentators have noted close to the one offered by Ernst Jentsch. Jentsch, however, does not include psychology (let alone psychoanalysis) among the phenomena with a



potential for uncanniness. Sometimes, though, he goes quite far in implying that achievements in natural science, art and medicine can be perceived as uncanny by lay people. For instance, Jentsch imagines that the experience that the suns rising on the sky is actually caused by the earths revolving might be uncanny or the experience of watching a virtuoso or a surgeon at work although, in the last cases, the feeling of admiration, in Jentschs opinion, prevails (Jentsch, 1906, pp. 196f.). The commentaries on The Uncanny display somewhat disconcerted interpretations of Freuds words about the uncanniness of psychoanalysis. The statement is quoted frequently, and the interpretations differ between the stance adopted by Robert Young that this is one of Freuds jokes to the lapidary assertion in Judith Halberstams frequently cited article about the The Silence of the Lambs that Freud with his statement predicted Hannibal [Lecter] (Halberstam, 1995, p. 173; Young, 1999, p. 8). Sarah Kofman, on her side, uses Freuds statement in order to establish the image of Derrida as un philosophe unheimlich.16 A common feature of the interpretations and rhetorical functionalizations of Freuds statement is that its relation to Jentschs view of the potential uncanniness of the virtuoso or the surgeon is, to some extent, suppressed. Jentschs point is quite clear, and not unreasonable: lay people, who do not have the necessary knowledge to understand the craft of the virtuoso or the surgeon, might experience as uncanny to see what these professionals can achieve. Many features of the context of Freuds statement point towards a similar reading. When commenting on the uncanniness of epilepsy or madness, Freud explicitly ascribes this feeling to the layman. Psychoanalysis has become uncanny to many people the one person Freud mentions, the mother of the girl he cured, does not belong to the psychoanalytic guild. One might even use the many expressions of modesty in Freuds description of the treatment of the young girl as an argument for considering this as a halfironical attempt at relating psychoanalysis to the topos of the uncanniness of the virtuoso or the surgeon. He does not describe his treatment as a miraculous healing but rather as a process that has taken place none too rapidly and contrary to what is implied in Stracheys and Bonapartes translations only describes the girl as fr lange Zeit geheilt healed for a long time, but not necessarily permanently.17 A more reasonable way
16. Kofman (1984[1973], p. 54), quoting The Uncanny: Ce que le [i.e. Derrida] rend trange toute une tradition, le rend proche, par contre, de la psychanalyse, elle aussi trangement inquitante aux yeux de bien des gens [What makes Derrida a stranger to a whole tradition, draws him near psychoanalysis, which is also uncanny in the eyes of many people] (my trans.). 17. Cf. Bonapartes la mre de la jeune lle depuis longtemps gurie (Freud, 1933, p. 197) and the very accurate, new French translation [. . . ] la mre de celle que javais gurie pour longtemps (Freud, 1996, p. 178). Bonaparte and Strachey also render Freuds initial description of the girl, siech, in a normalizing way that precludes the opportunity



of interpreting these expressions of modesty would be to read them as attempts at preventing the impression of boasting that could arise, had the author overtly and without restrictions claimed that psychoanalysis has attained the same potential for evoking uncanny feelings among nonprofessionals as the craft of, for example, virtuosos or surgeons. This impression is further strengthened by the observation that Freud contrary to most accounts in the secondary literature actually does not say that psychoanalysis has become uncanny to many people but that he would not be surprised if he were to hear such a statement.

Obtuseness and Delicacy

At rst glance, then, little indicates that Freud here makes a meta-discursive statement about the uncanniness of the psychoanalytical, heuristic process. To him, neither the newly discovered processes controlling the human psyche, nor the application of his theories to the topic addressed in the essay appear to arouse feelings of uncanniness. This interpretation is, at least, consistent with Freuds well-known, initial statement concerning his special obtuseness in the matter, where extreme delicacy of perception would be more in place (Freud, 1957, p. 220). In the deconstructive tradition, Freuds comment is typically read as the result of a classical process of repression. The obtuseness towards feelings of the uncanny is supposed more to be an expression of Freuds epistemological ideals than an adequate description of Freuds attitude towards the uncanny. This discrepancy is of central importance to the view that things happen uncannily in The Uncanny: Freuds desire for obtuseness towards the uncanny is played out against his evident or apparent sensitivity in the matter, or his being caught in it. The uncanny experience is then implicitly dened as the experience of seeing ones plan for establishing clear-cut boundaries being frustrated or the experience that the desired ideal of scientic objectivity is not applicable to the matter in question. Whereas it is difcult to fully agree with Young in considering Freuds statement about the uncanniness of psychoanalysis to be a joke, this interpretation is perhaps more appropriate when approaching the issue of Freuds self-declared obtuseness. Freud here plays on the use of the well-known rhetorical device called captatio benevolentiae, the part of the exordium designed to move the audience to a favourable disposition towards the speaker. If The Uncanny had been a traditional aesthetic treatise, dealing with the theory of beauty, as Freud puts it in the rst sentence, then there would have been some reason or at least some precedent in presenting ones obtuseness in the matter as an excuse for
of interpreting it half-ironically [malade; invalid]; the new French translation here has grotante [sickly].



the imperfections of the work presented.18 However, Freud from the rst sentence distances himself from this conception of aesthetics, which is later caustically described as generally preferring to concern itself with what is beautiful, attractive and sublime (Freud, 1955, p. 219). In 1919, this critique of the alleged, traditional view of aesthetics was not new. Karl Rosenkranzs (1853) book Die Aesthetik des Hlichen [The Aesthetics of the Ugly] is one example of a treatise that shares Freuds interest in what might (seen from the respective, ironical perspectives of the two authors) be called the other side of aesthetics. In his introduction, Rosenkranz ironically places his study among the so-called travaux de dvouement the types of work to which nobody has an innate propensity, but to which some people resign themselves because they see that it is for the common good (Rosenkranz, 1853, p. vi). In this captatio benevolentiae, Rosenkranz makes an ironical point which is similar to Freuds: due to the nature of the subject in question, the common-sense rules of the advantages of a natural giftedness or propensity do not apply. Thus, Freud and Rosenkranz both see the opportunity of ironically turning into its opposite the polemical topos of academic lack of sensitivity in romantic, aesthetical rhetoric. Freud accuses himself of obtuseness in a matter where extreme delicacy of perception would be more in place. This exaggeration extreme delicacy of perception not only ironically echoes Jentschs description of the abnormal sensitivity to the uncanny that is not infrequently a phenomenon accompanying a generally nervous disposition (Jentsch, 1995, p. 10); it also has a parallel in Rosenkranzs description of the effects that the ugly can have on people of a sensitive disposition: [T]he rawness and the baseness, the un-form and the un-gure, frighten the more sublime mind in their thousand-fold disguises.19 Freuds wording is so strong that it is difcult to take it seriously.20 The epistemological issue that is ironically
18. The animosity of the imagined audience is eloquently expressed in Schillers scoff at professional arbiters and scholars: Nothing is more usual than that the scholars expose themselves in the most ridiculous way to cultivated men of the world in their judgements on beauty and that especially the professional artistic arbiters are the laughing-stock of all connoisseurs (Schiller, 1981[1795], p. 78). 19. Rosenkranz (1853, p. 4): Der zarter Organisirte, der feiner Gebildete, hat von ihr [der Hlle des Hlichen, scil.] oft unsglich zu leiden, denn die Rohheit und Gemeinheit, die Abform und Ungestalt, ngstigen den edlern Sinn in tausendfachen Verlarvungen. It should perhaps be stressed that the parallels noted between Rosenkranzs and Freuds captationes benevolentiae are of a structural kind, and that my argument does not imply the assumption of a direct, intertextual relationship. 20. Sarah Kofmans description of the polemical aim of Freuds text is thus not exhaustive: It is precisely because traditional aesthetic approaches discard the uncanny, preferring to deal more with what is beautiful, attractive and sublime that is with feelings of a positive nature than with the opposite feelings of repulsion and distress that psychoanalysis must pay special attention to it (Kofman, 1991, p. 122). The



addressed here is well known adapting Schillers dictum,21 one might say that when a person with an extreme delicacy of perception of the uncanny speaks about it, then he doesnt speak. Being too much inside the uncanny, in Freuds view, precludes us from the opportunity of speaking about it. Here, then, we have nally reached a point of convergence between Freud and his post-modern reception. A point which is not without importance for Cixous, Weber and Hertz is that Freud is trapped in the uncanny, even though he tries to establish a position from which the uncanny can be observed from the outside, as an object. However, the problem with this interpretation is not so much its relation to the tenor of Freuds essay, but rather the revealing gestures with which it is presented. In this case too, the revealing gestures double and thus suppress the rhetorical gambols inherent in the wording of the Great Houdini of 20th century medical rhetoric. Freuds elusive, self-conscious prose in Das Unheimliche effectively escapes the attempts at one-sidedly outing the article as symptomatic of a process of repression. Rather than stating that Freuds repression of his feeling of intellectual uncertainty, and of his own, uncanny delicacy of perception in this matter forms the argument of Das Unheimliche, one could more appropriately say that the article thematizes the same, epistemological issues as the ones addressed more candidly by Weber, Cixous, and Hertz: the necessity, in interpretation, of taking control over ones subject matter, of externalizing it by closing oneself to some of its pervasiveness and the pitfalls caused by this necessity. Even in the most succinct, current accounts of The Uncanny, one can nd an assertion formed by, though not explicitly stated in the early, deconstructive reception of the article. After a brief outline of its content, the The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms (Childs & Fowler, 2006, s.v.) comments that: The Uncanny has been revealed as a text haunted by its own gaps and omissions: It is now widely recognized that the lasting importance of this piece resides precisely in such uncanny qualities. The revelatory practice of deconstructive readers is, indeed, commonly described as disclosing uncanny experiences for the readers of Freuds essay, for the readers of secondary literature, and not least for Freud himself (cf., e.g., Hertz, 1985[1979], p. 118). That a text dealing with the uncanny should be valued with respect to its own, uncanny qualities, has a certain logic to it. However, this logic is scarcely the one adhered to in contemporary humanities where the identication between discourse
traditional aesthetic Kofman replicating Freud rhetorically constructs here had, in 1919, been abolished a long time ago. 21. Spricht die Seele, so spricht, ach! schon die Seele nicht mehr [As soon as the soul speaks, alas! the soul no longer speaks], from the poem Sprache (1797), quoted from Schiller (1818, p. 250).



and its subject matter is generally considered as a fallacy. The process which brings The Uncanny towards identication with its subject matter may be seen as being pregured in Freuds text, but, in this case too, the deconstructive reception transposes Freuds art of slight auto-subversion into less palatable, perhaps even embarrassing unequivocality. It should perhaps be stressed, though, that the topos of describing the perusal of The Uncanny as an uncanny experience has reached a popularity which partially dissolves it from its immediate, deconstructive context. Today, the mentioning of the uncanniness of The Uncanny in the secondary literature is perhaps primarily to be seen as referring (or alluding) to a common opinion, rather than as reecting an aesthetic phenomenon that reveals itself to its readers. However, this topos still acts as an implicit guiding principle for the reception of the article, with the consequence that Freuds prose in todays critical discourse can apparently only be appreciated when it is deprived of vital elements of its rhetoricity. Readers who accept this train of thought may recall that this criticism against the de-rhetorization and disambiguation of his prose style is a well-known theme in the current reception of Freud in English-speaking countries, epitomized in the objections raised against Stracheys translations. In the case of The Uncanny, this criticism has special relevance because the current reception of the article is dependent of its being read against the grain, but, at the same time, one could see it as a curious strength of Freuds prose that it has the power to fascinate even when it is narrowed down to its apparent face-value. The narrowing effect caused by the traditional, deconstructively inspired image of Freuds text primarily concerns elements of rhetoricity in The Uncanny that problematize the epistemological approach which is commonly described as being Freuds own. In order to make its point(s), the deconstructive reception reinforces the positivistic, objectifying aspects of the essay apparently due to the implicit notion that the effect of the disclosures gains in effect proportionally to the clarity of the differences that are revealed. The argumentative practice mentioned in my introduction, where the suspicion that a discourse forcibly, but unknowingly, conceals something that has been repressed, leads to convincingly subversive interpretations, appears to have turned against Freud, himself one of its true masters. However, in the cases of Weber, Cixous and Hertz, the revealing qualities of their arguments may concern the nature and pervasiveness of this topos, rather than the doubtlessly powerful, but highly elusive repressive mechanisms in the text they analyse. Rather than claiming that Freuds rhetorical practice deconstructs the image that The Uncanny has today, one might consider the relationship between the essay and its uncanny reception in terms of degrees of clarity. When the playfulness of The Uncanny is suppressed and rhetorically doubled in the secondary literature, this has as its consequence



a clarication process that does not necessarily represent an advance in interpretative awareness or knowledge neither in understanding The Uncanny nor in appreciating uncanniness as such. Derridas La double sance might provide another metaphor for describing the relationship between The Uncanny and its reception. His fascinating, romantically inspired description of Mallarms description of the mime who mimes his own miming miming (etc.) may be applicable to the deconstructive reception (of the Uncanny? of Derrida?) per negationem.

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Freuds The Uncanny (1919) has been the object of a singular growth of interest, though mainly outside the realm of psychoanalysis. The article owes its present prominence in the humanities to its reception and appropriation by readers associated with deconstruction, starting with Jacques Derrida, and continuing with the inuential interpretations of Hlne Cixous (1972), Samuel Weber (1973) and Neil Hertz (1985). The present article discusses some characteristics of the deconstructive reception of The Uncanny, and points out the limitations it puts on the understanding of Freuds text. Key words: Freud, uncanny, deconstruction, rhetoric, Jentsch, intellectual uncertainty, literature, aesthetics

DOI: 10.3366/E1460823509000531