Oh Freud, its Just UNCANNY!

Freud was about as extraordinary as they come.

Freud was about as extraordinary as they come.

When I hear or read the word ‘uncanny,’ two things come to mind: the term, “uncanny resemblance,” and the Uncanny X-Men. These two completely unrelated things, in my opinion, epitomize the kind of dualistic meaning of the word uncanny that Freud described in his essay, The Uncanny. Freud analyzes the linguistics of the word in the first part of the essay, and I think that is particularly helpful and insightful, because it demonstrates the common task in different societies is to try and formulate a word to describe a concept, and give it meaning through language. Pinning down a word to describe a rock or a plant is one thing, but coming up with a word to describe a concept as confounding as the word uncanny, is quite another thing altogether. What Freud did well, was more or less define what uncanny was, by determining what it wasn’t. His discussion of the heimlich vs. unheimlich was helpful in this regard, because ruling out alternative meanings for a concept like this, can help define what it is. Its kind of like asking some people what they want to be when they grow up gets you less of a response of what happens what you ask them what they don’t want to be doing as an adult.

Freud slightly confused me when he talked about apparent death and reanimation of the dead as being  thought of as uncanny in the third part of his essay. The examples he used about Snow White and others don’t strike me as uncanny, just out of the ordinary, as he describes. I don’t particularly consider sudden death or reanimation, or even reincarnation to fall in line with his definition of what is uncanny earlier, though he does tie the word uncanny to a sense of fear. The relation of fear to the uncanny seems to be valid in some terms, such as the misunderstood, but I don’t think that it should be used as a blanket adjective of sorts for the term. For example, it was fitting to name the X-Men comic series, the Uncanny X-men, because the characters are misunderstood mutants that often strike fear into the hearts of normal people. That fits in with Freud’s line of reasoning, however, often in myths when people are resurrected, there is a general theme that it is because of a miracle, which is something good, not something to be feared, and thus, not something uncanny. That would be more of a surprise, or something striking, perhaps.

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