the fantastic Freud

unit one
unit two
unit three

Freud in his study

....Hoffmann is in literature the unrivaled master of conjuring up the Uncanny. His Elixire des Teufel’s  (The Devil’s Elixir) contains a mass of themes to which one is tempted to ascribe the uncanny effect of the narrative; but it is too obscure and intricate a story to summarize. Towards the end of the book the reader is told the facts, hitherto concealed from him, from which the action springs; with the result, not that he is at last enlightened, but that he falls into a state of complete bewilderment. The author has piled up too much of a kind; one’s comprehension of the whole suffers as a result, though not the impression it makes. We must content ourselves with selecting those themes of uncanniness which are most prominent, and seeing whether we can fairly trace them back to infantile sources. These themes are all concerned with the idea of a double in every shape or degree, with persons, therefore, who are to be considered identical by reason of looking alike; Hoffmann accentuates this relation by transferring mental processes from the one person to the other—what we should call telepathy—so that the one possesses knowledge, feeling, and experience in common with the other, identifies himself with another person, , so that his self becomes confounded, or the foreign self is substituted for his own—in other words, by doubling, dividing, and interchanging the self. And finally there is the constant recurrence of similar situations, a same face or character-trait, or twist of fortune, or a same crime, or even a same name recurring throughout several successive generations.
 The theme of the double has been very thoroughly treated by Otto Rank. He has gone into the connections the double has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and the fear of death; but he also lets in a flood of light on the astonishing evolution of this idea. For the double was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego, an “energetic denial of the power of death,” as Rank says; and probably the immortal soul was the first double of the body. This invention of doubling as a preservation against extinction has its counterpart in the language of dreams, which is fond of representing castration by a doubling or multiplication of the genital symbol; the same desire spurred on the ancient Egyptians to the art of making images of the dead in some lasting material. Such ideas, however, have sprung from the soil of unbounded self-love, from the primary narcissism which holds sway in the mind of the child as in that of primitive man. And when this stage has been left behind, the double takes on a different aspect. From having been the insurance of immortality, he becomes the ghastly harbinger of death.  

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