This blog is the book’s virtual doppelgänger, with the intention of calling attention to strange appearances of the Uncanny in popular culture, providing personal reflections and theoretical musings on theories of Das Unheimliche, and capturing my on-going research as it relates to the Uncanny in popular culture and cultural studies.
While mostly of interest to academics and aesthetes, I also think this space will be of interest to anyone who shares my fascination with all things strange and frightening that oddly become domesticated or rendered familiar, safe, and comfortable through popular forms.
Comments on posts are most welcome, because I believe scholarship should be shared and collaborative.
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The book, The Popular Uncanny, is forthcoming from Guide Dog Books and likely to see print in 2014-15. It is an updated version of my academic dissertation on the subject written during my PhD studies at the University of Oregon. It is NOT a reprint of entries on this blog; instead, this weblog supplements the book with new material and related writing on the subject. I do not think of this blog as advertising. It is a space for me to continue to think about the uncanny informally, out loud, while capturing new evidence as it appears in the media and elsewhere.
The publisher’s description of the title reads as follows:
Over a century ago, Sigmund Freud wrote an essay called “The Uncanny” in an effort to understand art, fairy tales, ghost stories, and other phenomena that arouse dread and horror. In the process, he initiated a critical theory surrounding “the return of the repressed” that remains current to this day.
In The Popular Uncanny, award-winning horror author Michael Arnzen critically examines how the aesthetic of the uncanny has circulated in mass culture since Freud’s breakthrough essay. After an insightful introduction to the theory and its legacy in 20th century criticism, Arnzen takes us on a cultural exploration of the key icons of the uncanny in several media. A chapter on the doppelgänger (or “the Double”) in advertising analyzes the interesting history of the Doublemint Twins, revealing how uncanny images are packaged for the mass market and what their “double pleasures” have to show us about our cultural anxieties. Arnzen’s look at the “dismembered hand that acts on its own accord” provides a critical account of that horror icon as it has appeared in art and cinema history and uncovers its ideological functions along the way. Turning to bestselling genre fiction, Arnzen analyzes the metafictional uncanny in Stephen King’s novel Misery, exposing how the revelation of “all that ought to have remained secret” (as Freud famously put it) points to uncertainties regarding genre, gender, and authorship. The Popular Uncanny concludes with an enlightening survey of the uncanny media of the World Wide Web; here we learn how the icon of the haunted house and other elements of the uncanny offer a fruitful way of reading what is unspoken about “home” pages and other online technologies.
This fresh take on the uncanny in popular culture provides ways of understanding the arousal of dread in a manner that points us not only toward what we fear as a culture, but also toward a doorway that often leads to progressive cultural change.
The planned cover artist for the book is Kelly Hutchison. Cover art will be posted here soon.
I look forward to sharing more information about this book and my current research into the uncanny in the future. To learn about my other books and creative work in the horror genre, visit The Goreletter. If you are a teacher, you might also be interested in my edublog on theory/praxis, called Pedablogue. Or join the Michael Arnzen Social Network to keep up with the latest.
Articles related to this project available elsewhere online:
- “The Return of the Uncanny” (Introduction to Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres vol 3.3-4, 1997)
- “Uncanny Teaching” (post on Pedablogue: A Personal Inquiry into the Scholarship of Teaching)
- “Meat Shots, Gorelets, Severed Hands and the Uncanny in Your Inbox: Michael Arnzen’s New Directions in Horror” by David Sandner (Dissections journal)
- More Michael Arnzen titles at gorelets.com
- Arnzen’s academic biography at Seton Hill University
Questions/private comments/recommendations? E-mail me.