It seems that for the past few weeks, the uncanny has been a recurring theme in both lectures and seminars. “The Sandman” was directly analyzed by Freud for a source of the uncanny, and in turn, the three short stories we’d read this week were questioned for the uncanny as well.
As I read “Fair-haired Eckbert”, I couldn’t help but notice a similarity it had to “The Sandman”: the character of the old woman appearing at different parts of the story, but under false aliases. Similar to how the Sandman disguised himself first as the lawyer Coppelius and then the barometer vendor Coppola, the old woman in “Eckbert” first disguises herself as Walther, Eckbert’s longtime friend, and then as Hugo, a knight whom Eckbert befriends after Bertha’s death.
Reading both stories, I had felt a certain sense of uncanny to both of these mysterious characters. Both had immense power and had shown up in the stories without explanation. They are also the only characters who possesses these magic powers in the story, which makes the readers further question their origins. Not only this, but both are set stories are set in realistic places, as the authors does not take advantage of the settings.
Could the uncanny lie in these facts?
It also fits well with Jentsch’s theory of the uncanny, that it stems from intellectual uncertainty. It also fits with Freud as well, with the idea of repetitiveness (also something he neglected to explore with his own analysis of the Sandman being the motif for the uncanny).
The Sandman and the old woman, both under disguises, set in real life, and appearing suddenly: all of these qualities gives a reader a sense of unease, as if what happened to Eckbert and Nathanael could happen easily in their lives.
It could be argued that this also occurs in Snow White, when the the Queen takes up disguises to visit Snow White in an attempt to kill her; this action happening multiple times. The Queen also has magical powers, but the realistic setting of the story contrasts the existence of such powers. However, with the knowledge that this story is a Grimms Fairytale, the fact that the Queen and her magical powers and talking mirror does not faze us.
So then, Freud would be right about the genre being something that could hinder the feeling of uncanny, but is that truly all it takes to take away that eerie sensation?
The similarities between these stories is something that should be explored, even more so when the question of our uncanny feelings are added.