He specifically says, however, that there are more opportunities for generating horror in fiction than in reality, and also that his present discussion concerns a variant of that has its roots in rejected or primitive notions.
Horror based on repressed “infantile complexes” should, according to Freud, be seen as a somewhat different proposition, a view that undeniably fits in with his idea that and Freud of course stresses in his analysis of Hoffmann that the reader’s uncertainty gradually disappears: what happens in the story is real within the framework of the fiction, and not the confabulations of a disturbed mind (unless one refuses to budge from the helpfully diffuse term “unreliable narrator”).
Coppelius often comes to the house to visit Nathanael’s father, and one evening, in a horrible sequence of events, tries to rob the boy of his eyes.
His father steps in and prevents the deed but is killed shortly afterwards by an explosion in his study, an “accident” probably engineered by Coppelius. Many years later, when Nathanael is a student, he comes across a travelling Italian optician called Coppola.
In modern German, however, the sense of “homey cosiness” is contained within the words .
Freud’s definition of the uncanny starts at this point and his interpretation is illustrated by a quotation from Sanders’s dictionary that strongly appealed to him, and which Sander in turn quoted from the nineteenth-century writer Karl Friedrich Gutzkow’s novel is what one calls everything that should have remained secret, or concealed, but which has emerged into the open.” Indeed, to quote Freud’s own take on the word: “Generally, we are reminded that the word 2 Indeed, not only Norwegian translators struggle to find the right word to encompass the German concept.The poor student’s response to this revelation is a complete mental breakdown followed by a long illness, but he eventually comes to his senses and is reunited with Clara.The couple climb the town hall tower in their hometown one day and Nathanael uses one of Coppola’s spyglasses to take a closer look at what Clara has described as a strange-looking “grey bush that truly seems to be advancing towards us” (Hoffmann, p. The young man is gripped by madness and the story ends with his leaping from the top of the tower, an act watched by the lawyer Coppelius – he has mingled with the crowd below.Then he comes across the lifeless doll with empty eye sockets and it finally dawns on him what has been going on.Spalanzani throws the automaton’s eyes on the floor and declares that Coppola has stolen them from Nathanael (who alternates between seeing them as dead objects, and aglow with “moist moonbeams”).[While I tumbled into the depths/ there appeared before my eyes someone/ almost voiceless as though from a long silence] What, has this thing appear’d again tonight? Sverre Dahl’s translation) – in English, “sinister; uncanny” – but the German word is something of a translator’s conundrum.Freud is clearly very much aware of this because, quite early in the essay, he examines several European languages to find possible, if often inadequate, words that are supposedly equivalent to , before scrutinizing his native language for shades of meaning, drawing on the German dictionaries by Daniel Sanders and the Brothers Grimm.With regard to the latter in particular, he is at least as preoccupied by what is written in the context of (Grimm), i.e.“confiding, friendly, trusting”; other perfectly possible versions include “comfortable” and “cosy”.Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism5 In order to deal in more detail with the problematic aspects, I am going to follow Freud’s example and begin by outlining the plot of Hoffmann’s story, which I would obviously urge everyone to read.TA Hoffmann, Nachtstücke ("Night-time Stories"), Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben, 2nd ed,…