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Issue 5. The Uncanny - Guest editor: Anneleen Masschelein

A Trail of Disorientation: Blurred Boundaries in Der Sandmann

Author: Michiel Scharpé
Published: January 2003

Abstract (E): In his reading of E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman”, Freud sees the castration complex as the basis of the uncanny effect of the story. His analysis tries to show against Ernst Jentsch that the factor of intellectual uncertainty does not play a significant role in this tale. This article questions Freud's interpretation techniques and his conclusions. Confronting Freud with the reading of Sarah Kofman, it tries to develop a more coherent interpretation, which eventually seems to point more towards the insights of Jentsch than towards the castration fear of Freud.

Abstract (F): Dans sa lecture de « L'Homme au sable » d'E.T.A. Hoffmann, Freud considère le complexe de castration comme la base de l'effet « unheimlich » du récit. Prenant le contrepied d'Ernst Jentsch, son analyse s'efforce de démontrer que l'incertitude intellectuelle ne joue pas de rôle clé dans l'histoire. Notre article interroge aussi bien les techniques interprétatives de Freud que les conclusions de son texte. Relisant Freud à la lumière de Kofman, nous essayons d'intégrer l'analyse du premier dans une interprétation plus cohérente, qui s'avère plus proche des thèses de Jentsch que de l'insistance freudienne sur la peur de la castration.

Keywords: Readings of "Der Sandmann”, Hoffmann, Freud, Jentsch, Kofman, doubt.



In his essay on the uncanny (1919), Freud enters into debate with Ernst Jentsch, a psychologist who had already published an article on this subject in 1906. Jentsch had argued that the uncanny is closely linked to a lack of orientation. The feeling of doubt regarding the nature of an unknown phenomenon prevents the subject from an intellectual mastery of the situation, which causes an uncanny feeling. Jentsch associates the uncanny explicitly with intellectual uncertainty, which when resolved causes the uncanny feeling to cede. Freud calls Jentsch's paper initially "fertile but not exhaustive" (Freud: 219). He claims that "Jentsch did not get beyond ... the equation 'uncanny' = 'unfamiliar'" (Freud: 221) and therefore he wants to dig deeper, namely to the conclusion that "the uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar" (Freud: 220). Freud seems to state here that he only wants to go beyond Jentsch's insights, but quite soon it becomes clear that he does not validate the notion of intellectual uncertainty as a constitutive factor for the uncanny. Hence, during the entire essay, he will try as much as he can to minimize this intellectual uncertainty. However, as Hélène Cixous has pointed out, and others after her, this struggle forces Freud into a seemingly endless series of examples, conclusions, and modifications of those conclusions.

Freud's first and biggest attempt to prove Jentsch wrong is through an analysis of E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "The Sandman" (1815), in which Freud puts forth the repressed castration complex as the most important ground for the uncanny effect of Hoffmann's text. However, if one takes a close look at this story, many questions arise about Freud's interpretation. It seems that his strategic motives prevent him from developing an open and unbiased view on the narrative. In what follows, we shall reinvestigate some elements of "The Sandman" and question whether Freud's emphasis on the castration complex is justified, and whether Jentsch's notions of doubt, lack of orientation and intellectual uncertainty can really be marginalized. On the way we shall meet with Sarah Kofman, whose original reading of the tale will prove useful to our inquiry.


Freud starts his discussion of "The Sandman" with a reference to a passage in the article of Jentsch, where the latter speaks about the uncanny effect of the human automaton and says that "E.T.A. Hoffmann has repeatedly made use of this psychological artifice with success." (Jentsch: 13; our italics). Apart from "The Sandman", Hoffmann has also written other stories that feature automatons, e.g. "Die Automate" and "Der Nussknacker", but Freud seems to ignore this (Quackelbeen and Nobus: 83). He states that Jentsch's observation "refers primarily to the story of 'The Sand-Man' ... which contains the original of Olympia, the doll..." (Freud: 227). With this remark, Freud makes it appear as if he enters into a direct polemic with Jentsch about the uncanny effects of "Der Sandman". He continues:

But I cannot think ... that the theme of the doll Olympia, who is to all appearances a living being, is by any means the only, or indeed the most important, element that must be held responsible for the quite unparalleled atmosphere of uncanniness evoked by the story... The main theme of the story is, on the contrary ... the theme of the 'Sand-Man' who tears out children's eyes. (Freud: 227)

So, Freud argues that it is not the mechanical doll Olympia but rather the character of the Sandman that lies at the basis of the uncanny effect of the story. Before moving into an analysis he now summarizes Hoffmann's tale. However, this 'summary' turns out to be problematic. It seems that Freud, in his one-sided retelling of the story, almost creates a new narrative that fits better with his goal1, i.e. moving away from intellectual uncertainty towards the castration complex. That this really is Freud's goal, becomes quite clear in his statement after the summary: "This short summary leaves no doubt, I think, that the feeling of something uncanny is directly attached to the figure of the Sand-Man, that is, to the idea of being robbed of one's eyes, and that Jentsch's point of an intellectual uncertainty has nothing to do with the effect." (Freud: 230).

A first obvious sign of Freud's reduction is his denial of Hoffmann's ingenious use of different perspectives. He admits that "the writer creates a kind of uncertainty in us in the beginning by not letting us know ... whether he is taking us into the real world or into a purely fantastic one of his own creation." "But," Freud continues, "this uncertainty disappears in the course of Hoffmann's story ... For the conclusion of the story makes it quite clear that Coppola the optician really is the lawyer Coppelius and also, therefore, the Sand-Man." (Freud: 230) So for Freud the end of the story is totally free from any doubt. However an uncanny effect remains, which means that something else must be playing. In this manner, Freud obtains a first important justification to prepare for his castration theory: his summary shows that the uncanny effect is certainly not based on intellectual uncertainty, so it must be something else. But does the ending of the story really resolve all possible doubts concerning the identity of Coppola and Coppelius? Has every trace of uncertainty disappeared? Probably not. Freud's brief summary retells the story exclusively from the perspective of one character, namely the protagonist Nathanael. Moreover, as Neil Hertz points out, when Freud occasionally quotes from Hoffmann's text, he only cites direct dialogue:

Freud retells the story, but what is remarkable is that everything he includes within quotation marks has already appeared within quotation marks in "The Sandman": that is, he quotes nothing but dialogue, things said by Nathanael or by some other character; the words of the narrator have completely disappeared, replaced by Freud's own, and we have the illusion of watching Nathanael's actions through a medium considerably more transparent than Hoffmann's text. (Hertz: 304)

So Freud only focuses through Nathanael and never speaks from a coordinative perspective. And yet, one of the more remarkable narrative techniques of the story is precisely the use of different perspectives. Moreover, these different perspectives unmistakably contribute to the sense of uncertainty that is perceived by the reader. "The Sandman" commences, without any introduction, with three letters: two from Nathanael to Lothar and one from Klara to Nathanael. After the third letter a narrator suddenly appears and addresses the reader: "Gentle reader, nothing can be imagined that is stranger and more extraordinary than the fate which befell my poor friend, the young student Nathanael, which I have undertaken to relate to you." (Hoffmann: 148). This narrator then says that he did not know how to begin his story and therefore "resolved not to begin at all." (Hoffmann: 149).

The first two letters immediately create a radical dichotomy. On the one hand there is Nathanael, who tells about the terrible events in his childhood. He also writes that the main character in those events, the old lawyer Coppelius, now seems to have reappeared under the disguise of Giuseppe Coppola, a barometer dealer. On the other hand, there is Nathanael's fiancée Klara. She has discussed Nathanael's letter with her brother Lothar, and has a reasonable (Klara, clair, clear) explanation for the events: "I will frankly confess that in my opinion all the fears and terrors of which you speak took place only in your mind and had very little to do with the true, external world." (Hoffmann: 145). Thus, these two letters offer two opposite views on the matter. This tension creates from the beginning on a fundamental doubt: which one is the 'true' explanation? When the narrator intervenes in the story, even a third perspective is added. He does not limit himself to a distant account of the events, but from a meta-textual perspective, he comments on the story itself: how marvellous it really is and how difficult it is to render it in an honest and right manner.2 With these remarks, the narrator situates himself in an indecisive zone between the two perspectives offered by the letters. By focusing only through Nathanael, Freud denies this nevertheless crucial sense of uncertainty. Moreover, in the end this uncertainty is not resolved at all. The two opposite perspectives continue to compete with each other and, maybe strangely enough, the narrator withholds any conclusive commentary. We might therefore conclude with Sarah Kofman that "la fin reste ambiguë, ne permet pas de lever le doute." (Kofman: 150)

This discussion of the different perspectives used in the narrative of "The Sandman" shows that Freud's first argument, namely that the uncanny effect has nothing to do with Jentsch's intellectual uncertainty, is not valid. We will now move from the macro-level towards the micro-level, i.e. we will take a closer look at the actual content of the story. We will loosely follow Kofman's line of approach, and gradually move closer to a confrontation with Freud's castration theory.

In Quatre romans analytiques, a book which examines Freud's (mis)use of literary texts, Sarah Kofman dedicates one chapter to his reading of "Der Sandmann". In her own reading, Kofman broadens the question of doubt over what is real and what is imaginary to the concept of mimesis. She argues that mimesis actually plays an important role in the story: there is a lot of attention for literature, poems, pictures, and of course there is the character of the mechanical human doll, Olympia. The narrative does not start with a neutral account of Nathanael's childhood, but with a description of that childhood by Nathanael himself, years later. What we therefore get is Nathanael's view, without any interference of someone else. But is this view entirely reliable? Didn't his memories get blurred? "Nathanael was forced to confess to himself that the ugly image of Coppelius had faded in his imagination, and it often cost him great effort to present Coppelius in adequate vividness in his writing where he played the part of sinister bogeyman." (Hoffmann: 152). In this manner Nathanael's account serves to recreate his childhood, i.e. he constitutes a story of his past. The distinction between what is real and what is fantasy becomes troubled: "par l'écriture, Nathanaël constitue ses souvenirs plus qu'il ne se les remémore: il est impossible de distinguer le récit de ses souvenirs de celui de ses fantasmes, le récit du passé de l'imagination de l'avenir" (Kofman: 156).

Somewhat similarly, Nathanael 'writes' his future: at a certain point he composes a visionary poem in which he describes how Coppelius disturbs the love between Klara and himself. In the end, this vision will prove to come true for him. Kofman therefore concludes that Nathanael predominantly lives in a self-constructed, imaginary world. This world is strongly narcissistic: Nathanael finds pleasure in reading his stories and poems to his mistresses. He spends hours and hours reading to Olympia, whose attention never wanes:

Nathanael dug up everything he had ever written ... and all of this he read to Olympia tirelessly for hours at a time. Never before he had such a splendid listener. ... she sat for hours on end without moving, staring directly into his eyes, and her gaze grew ever more ardent and animated. (Hoffmann: 162)

This increases Nathanael's love and admiration for her: "How beautiful, how profound is her mind! Only you, only you truly understand me." (Hoffmann: 162) It is clear what kind of pleasure this is: "jouissance strictement narcissique" (Kofman: 157).

Nathanael's image of Coppelius too is constituted by a scheme of distortion between image and reality. As a young boy, he used to make pictures of the Sandman: "A horrible picture of the cruel Sandman formed in my mind ... of whom [the Sandman] I was always drawing hideous pictures, in charcoal, in chalk, on tables, cupboards, and walls." (Hoffmann: 139) Moreover, he prefers the terrifying explanation about the Sandman, told to him by the old nanny, over the reassuring but also down-to-earth explanation provided by his mother. In this way, when later on 'reality' appears, this reality will always be seen by Nathanael through a 'coloured' lens, the lens of his initial imagination: "La perception du réel se trouve toujours anticipée par lui sous une forme néfaste: le double fantasmatique double le réel, lui donne sa teinture spécifique..." (Kofman: 158) The images created in his own narcissistic world distort his perception of reality and 'contaminate' it. Hence, when Nathanael finally discovers that the mysterious Sandman actually is no one else than the old lawyer Coppelius, he projects his image of the horrifying Sandman on Coppelius. Kofman states that to Nathanael, reality is always a priori structured by the imagination, so reality as such has never existed for him: "Coïncidence entre le fantasme et la réalité parce que celle-ci n'a jamais été présente comme telle." (Kofman: 158) It is therefore impossible to draw a clear and fixed line between the real and the imaginary.

Because for Nathanael fiction takes the place of real life, his mimesis becomes diabolic: "La littérature comme mimésis qui se substitue à la vie est une perversion de la créature qui rivalise avec Dieu: mimésis diabolique." (Kofman: 159). His fiancée Klara however loves life itself: "Dreamers and visionaries had bad luck with her ... her clean glance and her rare ironical smile asked: "Dear friends, how can you suppose that I will accept these fleeting and shadowy images for true shapes which are alive and breathe?"" (Hoffmann: 150). Hence, Nathanael's "mauvaise mimésis" (Kofman: 159), the 'double', doesn't interest her, and the two lovers gradually become strangers to each other: "His resentment at Klara's cold, prosaic disposition increased; she could not conquer her dislike for his dark, gloomy, and dreary occultism; and so they drifted farther and farther apart without being conscious of it." (Hoffmann: 152). Nathanael's love for Klara fades, but a new love, this time for the automaton Olympia, arises. Kofman sees this as an effect of Nathanael's confusion between the real and the imaginary: "Perversion de Nathanaël qui reste insensible aux charmes de Clara, qui préfère la fiancée morte à la fiancée de chair, qui confond les vivants et les morts." (Kofman: 160) Nathanael reverses things: Klara is cold and 'dead', while Olympia is a profound and passionate soul who truly understands him. He calls Klara a "damned, lifeless automaton" (Hoffmann: 154): to him Klara appears to be something what in fact Olympia really is.

With these arguments, Kofman tries to show against Freud that the Olympia-episode is not an isolated moment in the story. Olympia figures as a counterpart of Klara, and therefore she elucidates Nathanael's character. Olympia's eyes are a mirror for the narcissistic Nathanael: when he reads to her, "she sat for hours on end without moving, staring directly into his eyes, and her gaze grew ever more ardent and animated." (Hoffmann: 162). By reading the products of his imagination to her, Nathanael animates Olympia's initially glassy eyes. This narcissism is the basis of artistic creation and replaces real procreation: "Narcissisme de Nathanaël qui le rend inapte à l'amour objectal, interdit. Narcissisme dont l'activité "créatrice", productrice de doubles, substitut de la procréation, est le corrélat." (Kofman: 160) With his fiction, he animates dead matter. Nathanael regards artistic creation higher than real procreation, the dead higher than the living. His fiction makes him see life in a dead automaton and alienates him from his lively fiancée.3

Let us now move closer to a confrontation with the castration theory. Freud sees Coppelius as the 'bad' part of the split father-imago. When the young Nathanael gets caught while spying on the nocturnal activities of his father and Coppelius, the latter starts to 'tinker' with him: "... "but now we must carefully observe the mechanism of the hand and feet." He thereupon seized me so violently that my joints cracked, unscrewed my hands and feet, then put them back, now this way, then another." (Hoffmann: 142) Together with Coppelius' threat to take Nathanael's eyes, Freud sees this as "a new castration equivalent" (Freud: 232). Kofman however contests this and argues that this scene should be seen as a first illustration of the interest in human mechanisms. This scene is therefore not isolated, but points to the mechanical doll Olympia. Freud stated that the Sandman is much more important than Olympia and therefore treated them separately in his analysis, whereas Kofman draws a necessary link between both characters thus resolving the isolation that Freud had installed between them. In this manner she can move away from the castration theory. After he has tried to put Nathanael's limbs in several different positions, Coppelius has to conclude: "There's something wrong here! It's better the way they were! The Old Man knew his business!" (Hoffmann: 142) Coppelius acts here as an alchemist, as a promethean rival of the Creator:

Les paroles prononcées par Coppélius sont celles d'un rival de Dieu […] qui constate, avec dépit, son échec dans sa tentative de faire mieux que lui. Dévisser bras et jambes, c'est, non pas castrer, mais morceler un tout vivant en le traitant comme une machine; c'est vouloir reconstituer la vie à partir de l'inerte: tâche diabolique, vouée à l'insuccès. Le double diabolique est toujours déjà oeuvre de mort, toujours déjà mort. Et la crainte de morcellement de Nathanaël est celle de mourir. (Kofman: 163)

Unscrewing limbs is not castration, rather it is considering a living person as a machine. During the nocturnal experiments, Coppelius wants to create life out of inert matter, which Kofman calls a "tâche diabolique". It is clear that she also sees the imitation of human figures as a form of diabolic mimesis. But the error of the devil, Kofman continues, is wanting to do better than nature, namely to make a perfect creation: "Mais l'erreur du diable, c'est de vouloir faire passer l'inanimé pour de l'animé, en tentant de faire mieux que nature, en réalisant une "créature" parfaite." (Kofman: 165; our italics). According to Jentsch, it is precisely this confusion between animate and inanimate that forms the most important uncertainty to cause an uncanny feeling:

Among all the psychical uncertainties that can become an original cause of the uncanny feeling, there is one in particular that is able to develop a fairly regular, powerful and very general effect: namely, doubt as to whether an apparently living being is animate, and, conversely, doubt as to whether a lifeless object may not in fact be animate - and more precisely, when this doubt only makes itself felt obscurely in one's consciousness. (Jentsch: 11)

Most people sense that something is wrong with Olympia, but they don't know what. Siegmund tells Nathanael: "We found Olympia to be rather weird [uncanny], and we wanted to have nothing to do with her. She seems to us to be playing the part of a human being, and it's as if there really were something hidden behind all of this." (Hoffmann: 161). Even Nathanael gets an uncanny feeling when he first sees her: "She did not seem to notice me; indeed, her eyes seemed fixed, I might almost say without vision. It seemed to me as if she were sleeping with her eyes open. I became very uneasy..." (Hoffmann: 148) We clearly see here an uncertainty based on the confusion between animate and inanimate, "more precisely, when this doubt only makes itself felt obscurely in one's consciousness." To return to Kofman, it is the perfection that gives Olympia an uncanny aura. Siegmund says that her movements "seem to stem from some kind of clockwork", and calls her playing and singing "unpleasantly perfect" (Hoffmann 161). Perfection means immortality. But, Kofman argues, although (or maybe precisely because of) those "imitateurs charlatanesques de Dieu" (Kofman: 163) desire to create a perfect, immortal being, they cannot evade the shadow of death. Through perfect creation, man tries in vain to escape omnipresent death: "Par la création de doubles qu'il veut immortels, l'homme tente de mieux se cacher que toujours déjà la mort entame la vie: l'inquiétante étrangeté [the uncanny] du double est due à ce qu'il ne peut pas ne pas évoquer ce que l'homme cherche en vain à oublier." (Kofman: 166; our italics) Kofman defines the uncanny in terms of an impossibility to not evoke death in the creation of a 'duplicate'.

Hence, the scene observed by Nathanael from behind the curtain is uncanny according to Kofman because it is an attempt to create life from the inert. Moreover, it contains some elements of the primary scene:

... elle a toujours lieu la nuit, d'une façon rituelle, à la même heure; elle est liée à des bruits particuliers, pas lourds et sonore d'un homme montant l'escalier, grincements caractéristiques. La plupart des éléments se trouvent inversés: elle se passe entre deux hommes et aboutit à une création contrenature; le père immobile et figé a un rôle passif. Les deux protagonistes se déshabillent et revêtent des vêtements "nocturnes", noirs (et non blancs). Tout se passe comme si Nathanael curieux de détenir le savoir suprême, celui de la fabrique des enfants, y trouvait une réponse en fantasmant une création magique de type prométhéen d'où la femme se trouve exclue. Savoir interdit qui sera nécessairement puni. (Kofman: 167)

In this case, the child is made by two men. The child is artificial however; a woman is missing. Nathanael knows already from beforehand that he will be punished if he would get caught: "At the risk of being discovered and, as I could clearly anticipate, severely punished, I remained watching, my head stretched out through the curtain." (Hoffmann: 141) The fact that Nathanael already knows that he will be punished is due, according to Kofman, to a previous punishment - imagined or real - namely the punishment for witnessing the primal scene: "L'anticipation du châtiment par l'enfant ne peut être si nette que parce qu'elle évoque un châtiment plus ancien: celui subi ou fantasmé pour avoir épié ou désiré épier la scène primitive." (Kofman: 168) At first sight this remark might seem striking, for this interpretation seems to point directly towards the punishing father and - to castration. Kofman admits that there is a relation with the fear of castration, but she subordinates that fear to the fear of death: "La crainte actuelle de perdre les yeux n'est pas le substitut de celle de la castration, mais elle ne peut pas ne pas l'évoquer: elle en est la répétition autopunitive, sur un mode plus sadique, puisqu'elle est liée à la perte de la vie, au morcellement." (Kofman: 168) With this comparison to the primal scene, Kofman moves dangerously close to the castration complex, but it becomes clear that she has to do this to remain consistent with the scheme she has installed. This - real - scene (i.e. the nocturnal activity of his father and Coppelius) can not be perceived by Nathanael in a pure and unstained manner, because it is already a priori 'coloured' by something imaginary. So again it is a matter of "coïncidence du réel et du fantasme":

La scène magique serait donc le retour "réel" d'une autre scène peut-être seulement fantasmée. Mais le fantasme ancien doublant toujours déjà la perception actuelle, il est difficile de discerner la part de l'un et de l'autre. Ce qui provoque l'inquiétante étrangeté ici est surdéterminé: c'est la scène de magie unheimlich par elle-même en tant qu'elle est liée au problème du double; c'est le retour du fantasme de castration sous forme de celui, plus angoissant, de morcellement; mais c'est surtout la coïncidence du réel et du fantasme. (Kofman: 168)

Kofman posits here that it is the coinciding of the real and the imaginary that provokes the uncanny. This means that castration fear can contribute to an uncanny effect (as is shown here), but not independently. The basis of the uncanny is not established by castration fear, but by the uncertainty caused by a coincidence of the real and the imaginary. The state of doubt results in an uncanny lack of orientation precisely because the boundaries are not fixed and therefore fanciful: "Ce qui caractérise Nathanaël c'est justement l'impossibilité d'avoir des limites assurées… Ce qui l'angoisse ... [c'est] le passage de l'un dans l'autre: que le même puisse devenir l'autre." (Kofman: 175)

It seems to us that Kofman's reading of Hoffmann's narrative is more thorough and more honest than Freud's. Moreover, her notion of "coïncidence du réel et du fantasme" and the unfixed boundary between "le même" and "l'autre" seem to be fruitful concepts that point quite clearly in the direction of Jentsch's lack of orientation, doubt and intellectual uncertainty. We have shown that various elements in the story that contribute to the uncanny effect, have something to do with this intellectual uncertainty. Firstly, there is the ingenious use of different perspectives that creates an unsolvable doubt. Secondly, there is the character of Olympia, whose uncanny aura is due to an uncertainty about whether something is animate or inanimate. The figure of the Sandman, who becomes 'real' in the nocturnal scene, seems to be a more complicated matter. Maybe Kofman's analysis here is not entirely satisfying, but in any case she shows quite convincingly that the coinciding of the real and the imaginary as a cause for the suspension of orientation, which can be interwoven with the castration complex, might be a more accurate factor than Freud's.

From this point, however, Kofman moves towards a conclusion that suggests that death eventually might be the ultimate ground of the uncanny:

L'inquiétante étrangeté des pulsions de mort dont les figures du diable sont les métaphores n'est-elle pas l'Unheimlichkeit par excellence, la condition de tous les autres effets du même genre? N'est-elle pas due à un refoulé universel, le plus résistant: celui de la présence dans la vie et à l'origine de la vie, de la mort? (Kofman: 176)

One could question whether Kofman does not go too far here in trying to grasp the ultimate core. For Freud's curse, namely that the proposition has to be reversible (a criterion that he found lacking in Jentsch's theory, but eventually also in his own definition) seems to apply once again: maybe one could argue that everything uncanny has something to do with death (Kofman), but probably not everything that has something to do with death is uncanny. Maybe, following Jentsch's proposition about animate and inanimate, and in fact also Kofman's fear "que le même puisse devenir l'autre" (and vice versa), man's relation with the dead is closer to the uncanny than his relation with death. In general, Freud's assumption that "the uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar" seems to remain valid. Still, in spite of the obvious merit and of the unquestionable usefulness of Freud's attempts to go beyond and to dig deeper, Freud nevertheless does not manage to defend his argument in a straightforward and convincing manner. Many questions remain open for exploration. While Freud noted that Jentsch's article is "not exhaustive", the same goes for his own, and Jentsch's essay might be even more "fertile" than Freud claimed.


Cixous, Hélène. 1976. "Fiction and Its Phantoms: A Reading of Freud's Das Unheimliche (The "uncanny")." New Literary History 7-3: 525-548.

Freud, Sigmund. 1955 [1919]. "The 'Uncanny'" in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Volume XVII. Ed. James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press.

Hertz, Neil. 1979. "Freud and the Sandman." Textual Strategies. Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism. Ed. Josué V. Harari. Ithaca: Cornell UP.

Hoffmann, E.T.A. 1969 [1815]. "The Sandman." Selected Writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Volume 1: The Tales. Ed. and trans. Leonard J. Kent and Elizabeth C. Knight. Chicago: U of Chicago P.

Jentsch, Ernst. 1995 [1906]. "On the Psychology of the Uncanny." Angelaki 2.1: 7-16.

Kofman, Sarah. 1973. "Le double e(s)t le diable. L'inquiétante étrangeté de L'Homme au sable (Der Sandmann)." Quatre romans analytiques. Paris: Galilée.

Mahlendorf, Ursula. 1975. "E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Sandman: The Fictional Psycho-Biography of a Romantic Poet." American Imago 32: 217-239.

Quackelbeen, Julien, and Dany Nobus. 1993. "Freud en Der Sandmann of de psychoanalyticus en het literaire werk." Psychoanalytische Perspectieven 19-20: 79-126.

Tatar, Maria M. 1980. "E.T.A. Hoffmann's "Der Sandmann": Reflection and Romantic Irony." MLN 95-3: 585-608.


1. Maybe Freud's consequent misspelling of the name of the protagonist (Nathaniel instead of Nathanael) could be seen as exemplary (symptomatic?) for this "blindness".
2. The role of the narrator and his use of romantic irony are investigated in the article of Maria M. Tatar.
3. Freud depicts Nathanael as a merely passive character, almost as a plaything of dark forces. In contrast with this, Kofman shows that Nathanael occupies an active and operating role in the story. This view is even more elaborated by e.g. Maria M. Tatar or also by Ursula Mahlendorf.



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