German 390/Comp. Lit. 396/Engl 363/CHID 498/JSIS 488/Lit 298

"Freud and the Literary Imagination"

Study Sheet:

Freud's "The Uncanny" and Hofmannsthal' "Tale of the Cavalry"

Characteristics of "Uncanny" Works of Narrative Fiction (According to Freud)

1) Focus is on one central character = the anchor character; events, people, etc. in the fictional world only have significance in relation to this character. It forms the hub, or center of all events.

2) External events are seen through the perspective of the anchor character and colored by his or her psyche; they are projections of the psyche of this fictional character.

3). The text thus takes on the quality of a dream text, with manifest and latent content. The real and the fantastic (Freudís required ambivalence) form a unity in the consciousness of the anchor character. This lends some of the events the shimmer of the symbolic because it is undecidable whether they are real or imagined.

4) Stylistically, uncanny fiction requires a fusion of objective and subjective narrative styles. We commonly find a realistic frame, which reads like a report or a newspaper article, which is suddenly ruptured by fantastic events. But this rupture is also related with the accuracy and detail of objective narration.

5) The readerís perspective must be that of the anchor character; events must be perceived through his/her eyes, filtered through the psyche of this character.

Only when all of these conditions are met is the experience of the uncanny transferred from the domain of the fictional world to the receptive experience of the reader.

Study Questions

1. Consider these qualities when you are reading Hofmannsthal's "A Tale of the Cavalry." Do they apply to this text? Think of examples for each. Try to designate examples for each, or of places where the tecty departs from Freud's theory.

2.What other features of Freud's discussion of the "uncanny" fit with this story?

3. How would you interpret the appearance of Anton Lerch's "double" from the Freudian perspective?

4. Are there other potentially "Freudian" symbols that play a role in this text? Name some, and provide a Freudian interpretation.