A Brief Exposition Concerning The Uncanny

This post is just the ground work for a series of article on films that will take a psychoanalytical approach. Here is a central concept that i will explore in relation to the horror and science fiction genres.


‘The subject of the ‘uncanny’…is undoubtedly related to what is frightening – to what arouses dread and horror; equally certain, too, the word is not always used in a clearly definable sense, so that it tends to coincide with what excites fear in general. […The] uncanny is that class of frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar ‘ (1.)


Long linked to that which is frightening, through its importance in Gothic fiction, the uncanny in its simplest and most basic form is the combination of two opposing states at once; namely both something familiar and unfamiliar. Freud in his famous essay ‘Uncanny’ lists how the word “homely” is linked to the word “unhomely” through the definition of the home. The familiar, known and open is set against the withdrawn, unfamiliar and unknown and found to both exist in the home (or the domestic or self). The home, according to Freud in relation to the uncanny, is the place where the know is withdrawn; the familiar hides the unfamiliar. When the unfamiliar is uncovered in the familiar a sense of uncanny is produced – even though the unfamiliar exists continuously in the familiar it is the bringing forth of the unfamiliar in the familiar that frightens us, brings into question our understanding and produces fear.

In an upcoming article i will highlight the psychoanalytical elements in Blade Runner (1982) and indicate an important instance of the uncanny.


(1.) Norton Anthology [full reference to follow] p. 930