Prompt: Create and answer 2 questions relating to some aspect of Freud’s The Uncanny.
Me: *sees the uncanny every. dang. where.*
How does the narrative of “Dorian Gray” act as an allegory for contemporary body modification experiences? In what ways is this allegory broken, or incomplete? Is this allegory supported with consideration of Freud’s The Uncanny? Why or why not?
I’m not here to say that people (such as myself) who modify their bodies are as Dorian Gray is in his vapidity, Rather, I believe that both Dorian Gray and contemporary body modification experiences connect in the realm of the uncanny. This is shown in the way in which Dorian adorns his home, and the way people adorn their bodies. Where both are representative of the familiar through the visible, social body, they are also representative of the unfamiliar through the invisible, personal Self.
[Images from Dorian Gray (2009) 1) showing a full house at the unveiling of the portrait complete with furniture, people, etc, compared to 2) Dorian preparing to sell all of his belongings; portrait removed.]
For example in Chapter 11 of Dorian Gray we are met with mere descriptions of things. These things with which Dorian fills his home have no value to him beyond the aesthetic, yet they are a part of the social body by which he is present within the world. His self, by comparison, lies rotting away in the attic for it experiences and thinks of nothing of consequence. This comparison also harkens to the collection of or returning to the modified self. Dorian repeatedly returns to the portrait in order to confirm its status, and people with modified bodies are forced to maintain a vigilant eye upon their modifications not only for health reasons, but also for aesthetic enjoyment.
Dorian Gray is one of those narratives I find myself returning to, always trying to make sense of what it is I’m reading. This allegory I’m suggesting is but one in a long string of very disjointed Feels I have about the narrative, and I’m not sure if I personally buy into it or not. That said, I definitely buy into it enough to hope to explore it further given another opportunity!
Is the feeding of People to the FBI team by Hannibal in Hannibal (2013) uncanny or abject? Can it be both? Where would the differentiation lie? Are there any specific examples of each?
[cw for cannibalism, vomiting, gross… ness…]
Starting off with a bang:
That’s not where ears go.
The above gif’d episode (Savoureux) acts as the ultimate unraveling of Will’s psyche through a series of traumatic and uncanny events. In addition to the scene gif’d above, it is found that Will’s fishing lures contain human hair for example. The uncanny is shown through both the affect of the characters in their reactions to the ear!vomiting, and in the effect of act of the vomiting.
Freud defines the uncanny as “that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar” (1-2, PDF Source). Spitting up a fucking ear is terrifying, and returns us to something which is known in the physical embodiment of the ear itself.
While Will does not immediately recall how or when the ear was eaten, it is eventually revealed that Hannibal fed Will the ear using a feeding tube in a later episode (Kaiseki). This returning of the ear to the body–to be again of the body–is uncanny in that the ear is removed from its original context of being on a head, to being in the (incorrect, perverse, uncanny) context of within the body itself.
Additionally the disjointed recollection of events is uncanny in that the memories (much like the ear proper) are perverted and removed from their original context. This results in a situation where although the recalling is familiar in that Will is literally returning to the source of the trauma, it is unfamiliar in that this is still new information for him.
While both of my examples look at the uncanny as it exists in media as opposed to as it exists in real life (a task I’m not sure I’d be personally capable of) the way/s in which the uncanny exists outside of media mirrors in-media examples pretty well.
With the example of Dorian Gray I myself have things like tattoos and piercings, and return to them on a regular basis for aesthetic appreciation and to make sure they remain healthy. That said they are obviously of and not-of my self in that they’re something which I possess of my self, but which I was (obviously) not born with.
With the example of Hannibal I also experience moments of dissociation which can be disorienting and result in uncanny experiences. While Will experiences dissociation as a symptom of an encephalopathy, and I as a symptom of PTSD the resulting uncanny trauma is similar in a number of ways (not the least of which being difficulties with memory recollection).