Extimacy and the evocation of the uncanny : between Freud and Lacan

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Twohig, Victoria Naish
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Psychoanalytic Studies
Dublin Business School
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The uncanny comes as compulsion; that is, like Freud, one will feel compelled, "impelled" (Freud, 1919/1990, p. 339) toward its (infantile) researches, or rather not at all. Nicholas Royle suggests that Freud's essay on The Uncanny (1919) "presents us with someone who has found himself in an unfamiliar place or someone who, apparently without knowing why, has chosen to venture into such a place" (Royle, 2003, p. 7). The acquiescence of this present paper is perhaps an admission of the same; in a reversion, this paper is essentially about returning to familiar places made strange by repression, to other places where the uncanny resides: to the imaginary realm of Lacanian thought. It could be said that there is a theoretical coincidence between Freud's theory of the uncanny on the one hand, and Lacan's mirror stage on the other, where the theories of the Freudian uncanny coincide, as if by chance, with the experience of the body in the Lacanian mirror stage. This paper begins with a close reading of The Uncanny and its theories of affect as posited by Freud. In the second section, these theories are transposed to the Lacanian neologism extimacy, which expresses the evocation of the uncanny in the imaginary, mirror stage. Extimacy is that which is intimate while exterior, an equivocation of inside and outside which decentres the subject and provokes anxiety. This second section looks at the mirror stage and its reciprocal relationship with the imaginary realm before engaging with, what this author calls in section three, the intertextual coincidences between Lacan's (1949) paper The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the 1, and the Freudian uncanny. Here, three coincident themes between the texts are analysed: the specular or doubled other, the fragmented body, and the alter ego. The fourth section of this paper is the ironical illustration of these theoretical coincidences, found in both the Freudian uncanny and the Lacanian mirror stage, as they coalesce in the art of Hans Bellmer. Each thematic is developed into an intertextual trajectory traceable in Bellmer's psychobiography and The Doll (1933-35).