Throughout his childhood, Hoffmann’s protagonist Nathanael was tormented – even traumatized – by his imaginings about the Sandman, the German version of the Norwegian Ole Lukkøye or Jon Blund [Ole or Jon Shut-Eye].
A series of popular comic books by Neil Gaiman is called , but the characters and stories have remarkably little to do with the German figure.
In my own case, the word instantly makes me think of, for instance, the encounter between Dante and Virgil in the first Canto of the Mentre ch’i’ ruvinava in basso loco. In the first place, Freud’s “natural explanations” are, as ever, utterly hair-raising and, anyway, the theme contributes to making the reader feel that the entire essay is best told on a dark evening by the fireplace: “The Uncanny” could be categorized as a ghost story lightly camouflaged as rational discourse, or perhaps a spiritualist séance conducted in the name of science: Freud’s role is primarily that of a shaman, discreetly seated at the head-end of the psychoanalytical couch, but actually not quite admitting that he believes in what he elicits.
dinanzi alli occhi mi si fu offerto chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco. The closest rendering of the essay’s key concept in Norwegian is (cf.
In the context of art, Freud disagrees with this line of thought and writes this about the plot development in Hoffmann’s story: It is no longer valid to speak of “intellectual uncertainty”; we know now we are not to be presented with a madman’s fantastic imaginings, behind which we, full of sober superiority, can recognize a rational reality and our impression of the uncanny [ in many contexts reaches its most convincing literary form if the author “for a long time does not allow us to guess the conditions he has chosen for the world he has created” (p.
266) or if, throughout the narrative, it remains unclear whether we are dealing with natural or so-called supernatural events.
With regard to the latter in particular, he is at least as preoccupied by what is written in the context of (Grimm), i.e.
“confiding, friendly, trusting”; other perfectly possible versions include “comfortable” and “cosy”.
Coppelius often comes to the house to visit Nathanael’s father, and one evening, in a horrible sequence of events, tries to rob the boy of his eyes.
His father steps in and prevents the deed but is killed shortly afterwards by an explosion in his study, an “accident” probably engineered by Coppelius. Many years later, when Nathanael is a student, he comes across a travelling Italian optician called Coppola.