Dear Nancy,
 
The uncanny is the English translation of das Unheimliche, which Freud and Heidegger developed from Kant's notion of the sublime, or mind-boggling vertigo in the face of the unimaginable. For Heidegger it was existential homelessness, which he describes in his "Ister" lectures of 1942 and which he connects to WWII. Freud's treatment of the uncanny like Kant's sublime comprises a temporal breakdown in which past and present are indistinguishable, and a spatial breakdown in which the subject feels out of place, unlocated, or multiply located. Levinas's excellent treatise Otherwise Than Being describes the uncanny as not being experienced in the time of clocks. I'm aware that these are texts written after TWL but they describe a human condition treated in earlier literature. Freud based his notion of the uncanny on the stories of E.T.A. Hoffman, as Offenbach did in his opera The Tales of Hoffman. (I wonder if Eliot knew Hoffman or Offenbach's opera?)
 
Note that the uncanny is not fear or melancholia, but a state in which ideas and imagination fail, and the senses are not helpful. Texts written after TWL can be helpful in distinguishing the uncanny from the surreal or paranormal, or the merely dead.
 
The uncanny affect is one of strangeness and horror, an affective tonality equivalent to the shudder Kant describes when the subject encounters the sublime. Freud said that a phantom or spectre is uncanny only when it seems real and present in the land of the living. So Spencer's nymphs and the Rhine maidens are not uncanny, except as they are displaced from their proper position in history and exist in the spectator's present. Phlebas as I recall moves back and forth underwater, as if of his own accord, which gives his corpse an uncanny quality. Eliot acknowledges the difference between the dead and the affect of horror produced by the living dead when he writes "Dry bones can harm no one."
 
Diana


Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2010 23:04:49 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Dante in the City (was : signs and wonders)
To: [log in to unmask]

Dear Diana,
 
The entire poem is in a spatial, co-existing time.  Stetson is both in the present and the past, but so is Tiresias. He is not represented as dead but as a double/soldier who planted a corpse.  It's all very strange and uneasy, but I don't see it as about the uncanny--unless the very premise of the entire poem, in which the nightingale still sings, and Tiresias watches the typist and young man carbuncular, and Elizabeth and Leicester float down the Thames in concert with the Rhine maidens--who are contemporary seduced young women--and Spencer's nymphs depart as if they had been there, is all about dead who seem alive.  There are dead around, but they are generally really dead, like the corpse or Phlebas or the white bones.
Cheers,
Nancy
>>> DIana Manister 03/17/10 10:29 AM >>>
Dear Nancy,

One does not expect a spectre, usually. I guess the uncanniness would depend on whether the walking, talking figure is someone recognized as having been alive. Stetson is such an uncanny figure. The eerie qualia is produced by the neither-nor state of the phenomenon, the spectator's inability to classify or qualify it as living or dead, since it's both. This is disorienting and produces a disturbance of the subject-object distinction.

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Mar 16, 2010, at 9:30 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear Diana,
 
So am I.  One does not expect a spectre to be alive.  In the poem, the spectre is in the first stanza as part of the description of the city.  It is not someone thought to be alive, but a spectre when the poem starts.  The focus of the poem is the multiplying old man seen in that city.
 
That's all I was noting.
Nancy

>>> DIana Manister 03/16/10 7:54 PM >>>
Dear Nancy,

I'm taking spectre to mean ghost, an apparition of someone once alive that as the poem says "walks and speaks."

Cheers,

Diana 

Sent from my iPod

On Mar 16, 2010, at 7:30 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

If you find "uncanny" is illuminating, ok.  I don't think that is the mood, but I may be too used to its Scottish tones.  My point was that the walking spectre is not someone thought to have been alive but not.  I suppose I should reread to be specific.
Nancy

>>> DIana Manister 03/16/10 4:41 PM >>>
Dear Nancy,

The opening of Baudelaire's poem comprises an uncanny image of spirits walking in broad daylight:

 THE SEVEN OLD MEN 
O SWARMING city, city full of dreams, 
Where in a full day the spectre walks and speaks; 

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Mar 16, 2010, at 11:04 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear Diana,
 
The poem Eliot alludes to is about an old man replicating himself into 7 old men; it is about multiplicity, not someone who was thought dead.  Eliot was, I think, much more interested then in Janet than Freud, who only became dominant in psychology around 1920.  In any case, he wanted a therapist for himself who was not Freudian.  There's a letter when he decided to go to Vittoz, and he uses terms that suggest Janet.  I'd have to find it.  But I do not think Freud helps explain Eliot as much as other theories then current--at least Eliot's own notions of himself then.
Nancy


>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 03/16/10 10:30 AM >>>
Dear Nancy,

The mood produced by the Dante and Baudelaire allusions together is
that of the uncanny. Not only Dante's dead who are animated and speak,
but the dream-spectres of Baudelaire combine qualities of both the
living and dead.

Freud saw the uncanny in literature as an expression of repressed
material entering awareness, something alive that was thought to be
dead.

Celan's poetry often comprises this mood in relation to Holocaust
victims who are somehow still alive.

Diana

Sent from my iPod

On Mar 16, 2010, at 9:27 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I do not think one can say these people are specifically defined by
> any single allusion. The allusions evoke moods and situations and
> implications; they do not identify in particular ways. "Unreal
> city," for example, is from Baudelaire's "Les Sept Viellards,"
> though the dead may evoke Dante's also. According to Southam, "In
> 1950 Eliot declared that these two lines [from Baudelaire] summed up
> Baudelaire's 'significance' for him: 'I knew what that meant,
> because I had lived it before I knew that I wanted to turn it into
> verse on my own account.'" The lines are these: "Fourmillante Cité,
> cité pleine de rêves,/Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le
> passant" ("Crowded city, city full of dreams,/Where in broad dayligh
> t the spectr stops the passerby").
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> DIana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 03/16/10 8:50 AM >>>
> Dear Rick,
>
> This lines are spoken by Ugolino in Canto xxxiii, cited by Eliot in
> TWL notes: "When I hear the door of the horrible tower locking." The
> locking signals that no food will be brought to Ugolino and the boys,
> who are starved to death.
>
> Not a happy way for Eliot to describe his work on London! Technically
> though, Virgil and Dante have not yet entered the first circle. They
> are at the gates. But as I think Carrol noted, souls there never get
> out.
>
> The Dante allusion in Burial of the Dead then would seem to compare
> London Bridge to the gates of hell, although it employs another quote
> from the Vestibule canto.
>
> Who are those crossing the bridge? Residents of this area in the
> Inferno are the uncommited, who think only of themselves. That would
> not be the war dead.
>
> Diana
>
> Sent from my iPod
>
> On Mar 15, 2010, at 8:25 PM, "Rickard A. Parker"
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> >> Since Eliot refers to those crossing London Bridge with the Dante
> >> quote
> >> about death having undone so many, do you think the implication is
> >> that
> >> London is a contemporaneous version of hell? The speaker's subject
> >> position is the same as Dante's after he and Virgil pass under the
> >> gateway
> >> to hell, as you note.
> >
> > Here is the ending of T.S. Eliot's "London Letter" dated May, 1921
> > and published in The Dial magazine June, 1921. Note how he uses
> Dante
> > to comment on his work in the city.
> >
> > As the prosperity of London has increased, the City Churches have
> > fallen
> > into desuetude; for their destruction the lack of congregation is
> the
> > ecclesiastical excuse and the need of money the ecclesiastical
> reason.
> > The fact that the erection of these churches was apparently paid for
> > out
> > of a public coal tax and their decoration probably by the
> > parishioners,
> > does not seem to invalidate the right of the True Church to bring
> them
> > to the ground. To one who, like the present writer, passes his
> days in
> > this City of London (quand'io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto) the
> > loss
> > of these towers, to meet the eye down a grimy lane, and of these
> empty
> > naves, to receive the solitary visitor at noon from the dust and
> > tumult
> > of Lombard Street, will be irreparable and unforgotten. A small
> > pamphlet
> > issued for the London County Council (Proposed Demolition of
> Nineteen
> > City Churches: P. S. King & Son, Ltd., 2-4 Gt. Smith Street,
> > Westminster, S.W.1, 3s.6d. net) should be enough to persuade of
> what I
> > have said.
> >
> > http://world.std.com/~raparker/exploring/tseliot/works/london-letters/london-letter-1921-06.html#churches
> >


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