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Does the concept of the uncanny require the privileging of castration anxiety, as Freud's account seems to imply? (Essay Sample)


In his essay on the “Uncanny,” Freud is struck by the fact that, in German, the word for the uncanny (das Unheimliche) seems to contain two opposite meanings –both “familiar” and “hidden” (in the sense of mysterious and even dangerous). He sees in this ambiguity not simply a peculiarity of the German language, but rather an expression of a universal experience of uneasiness and anxiety. Does the concept of the uncanny require the privileging of castration anxiety, as Freud's account seems to imply?
This is a not a research essay, but an exercise in close reading and critical reflection. The point is to engage closely with Freud's text and to think about its implications. You are expected only to engage with the material assigned. (You are of course free to consult secondary literature if this helps stimulate your own thinking, but be careful not to let this get in the way of grappling with the primary texts or thinking for yourself. Beware of even involuntary plagiarism: any sources you use)
-to demonstrate an attentive grasp of the actual details of Freud's texts. This means rereading the text several times both for thematic content and for its specific nuances of argument and expression;
-to explore the issues raised in the texts in a thoughtful manner, presenting critical arguments that take seriously the challenge of the text while probing its assumptions, difficulties, internal tensions, and possible limitations;


Does the Concept of the Uncanny Require the Privilege of Castration Anxiety, as Freud`s Account Seems to Imply?
Does the Concept of the Uncanny Require the Privilege of Castration Anxiety, as Freud`s Account Seems to Imply?
In the essay by Freud Sigmund, the concept of the uncanny refers to the fearful reaction to unusual or strange happenings that result into one experiencing cold chills. As Freud later describes, this uncanniness is related to a familiar memory that was known before. A comparison has been made between the uncanny and the fear of losing one`s eyes and castration anxiety. The importance of these two organs is great in that they are the basis upon which human beings are categorized thus bringing about order. On the other hand, the uncanny is more related to some disorderliness in life that is caused by the feeling of dread. In an interesting way and through the experiences of others, Freud has successfully shown how the way we deal with the uncanny has a lot to do with our psychosexuality, which was initially repressed. The essay is a good reminder of man`s psychic past where long forgotten and repressed things and events are triggered back to life in circumstances that qualify to be labeled uncanny.
The idea of the uncanny is regarded in relation with how familiar or unfamiliar something is to an individual. In this case, both the familiarity and unfamiliarity of something have the potential to evoke an uncanny feeling. Freud in “The Uncanny” describes the conditions of human beings in these modern times, which revolve around the ability to live in the present while being confronted by the experiences of the past. In defining the word uncanny, Freud ends up with the German word “Unheimlich” which is a direct opposite of another German word “heimlich.” The latter refers to a homely feeling or homeliness. In order to grasp fully the ideas behind the uncanny, it is necessary to remember that the combination of the familiar and the unfamiliar or in this case, the heimlich and unheimlich is necessary. Ideally, for human beings self-discovery is a very important process. Moreover, in order to understand who we truly are it takes more than just looking at our reflections. It takes an interaction with different experiences to reveal to us the bits about us that were unknown to us. In the end, it is by this known and the unknown aspects that we experience self-discovery. This very process of self-discovery reveals who we are and as we get to see our reflections, the uncanny feeling develops. The development of this feeling is triggered by the realization that we are a combination of the heimlich and unheimlich. Freud interestingly points out that, a homely place is that which is well known and which produces comfort. There is also the notion of the same home being a hidden place and concealed in an uncanny fashion. From the two notions therefore, Freud gives “homely” the description of a place that is secret while the “unhomely” refers to the revelation of something that was initially meant to be a secret.
One interesting aspect is how Freud explores the idea of breathing life into inanimate things. Not only are these objects given life but they are also involved in some relationships with real human beings. Freud gives an example of how during childhood, one cannot really tell the difference between the animate and the inanimate things. The truth of this is reflected in how dolls are treated like real people by children because in a way they contain most of those features that identify humans. The idea is further reiterated by Freud using Jentsch`s illustration of the mannequin. With its close resemblance to humans, the mannequin can easily be confused as being human at first ...

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