Das Unheimliche And Women: The Case of “The Tales of Hoffmann”
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This paper analyses Freud’s concept of Das Unheimliche used to describe a strange proximity between the known and the unknown, whether as something acquainted represents itself with an extraneous shape or as something extraneous discovers an element of intimacy in itself. Freud inaugurated this concept in the text Das Unheimliche in 1919 referring to cases in which the subject in relation to objects or events has feelings that range from usual closeness to the point of utter automated perception, when an object or event appears strange. The automatism of repetition is only one of manifestations of Das Unheimliche. Freud wrote this text responding to the text by Ernest Jentsch’s “On the Psychology of Des Unheimlichen” (“Uber die Psychologie des Unheimlichen”) from 1906 arguing on the importance and significance of the doll Olympia in Hoffmann’s story “The Sandman”. The position of Olympia – whether she was seen as alive or as a machine – remained the main issue in late discussions of v...arious authors. Therefore, Das Unheimliche and women are very closely related, not only because the concept is based on the female character of Olympia from the story, but also because Freud himself emphasized the Das Unheimliche character of the female body. The paper discusses the relation between Das Unheimliche and women, and reconsiders the relation between Das Unheimliche aspects of female characters in The Tales of Hoffmann. Short stories “The Sandman”, “Councillor Krespel” and “A New Year’s Eve Adventure” were also chosen by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré for the opera “Tales of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach, in which the leading roles of Stela, Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta are in fact one woman who takes a variety of forms.
Keywords:Das Unheimliche / Women / Mechanism / E.T.A. Hoffmann / Olympia
Source:New Sound : international magazine for music, 2015, 46, 65-75
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