Fall 1989 • Vol. XI No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1989 |

Keats and the Uncanny: ‘This Living Hand’

The central feature of Freud's theory of the uncanny is that what feels uncanny in either life or art feels so not so much because of what it is or represents in itself (on the contrary, the more familiar the object, the more uncanny it will seem under the appropriate circumstances) but because the thoughts associated with it or the thinking it provokes have been lost, buried, or repressed for a period of time, and have returned in some way or another, in a different context. Freud puts it this way: In the first place, if psychoanalytic theory is correct in maintaining that every affect belonging to an emotional impulse, whatever its kind, is transformed, if it is repressed, into anxiety, then among instances of frightening things there must be one class in which the frightening element can be shown to be something repressed which recurs. This class of frightening things would then constitute the uncanny; and it must be a matter of indifference whether what is uncanny was origi

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