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5. The Uncanny
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about Freud's theory of the uncanny in relation to Jekyll and Hyde, focusing in particular on: (i) the emotional reaction associated with the uncanny, i.e. an unsettling sense of strange familiarity; (ii) Freud's essay on the uncanny, and his explanation of where this feeling comes from; (iii) the idea of the uncanny as finding familiarity in what should be unfamiliar; (iv) the idea of the uncanny as moment where we become aware of another side of ourselves, i.e. the subconscious; (v) Freud's concept of the omnipotence of thoughts; (vi) the extent to which Hyde is a physical manifestation of Jekyll's (repressed) subconscious; (vii) the extent to which Hyde is a combination of the animate and inanimate, something between human and abhuman; and (viii) the extent to which the characters who interact with Hyde reveal something of their own subconscious desires.
In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In the first module, we think about the genre of the novel, before turning in the second novel to consider the implications of its title – not 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', but 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'. In the third module, we provide a close reading of the opening paragraph of the novel, thinking in particular about the character of Mr Utterson and the extent to which the first paragraph introduces the reader (if obliquely) to some of the key themes in the novel. After that, we think about the theme of degeneration, before turning in the fifth, sixth and seventh modules to some Freudian themes in the novel: the unconscious, the uncanny and sex and sexuality. In the eighth module, we think about the extent to which the novel reflects on its own conditions of textuality, before turning in the ninth and final module to think about how the novel explores anxieties about national identity.
Note: Page numbers in these lectures refers to the Penguin Classics edition of the novel (‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror’, ed. Robert Mighall). Students using a different version of the novel may encounter slight differences in page numbering.
Dr Christopher Pittard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous teaching positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. His main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. His monograph, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, considers how such fictions (and the periodicals in which they appeared) engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. His publications in this area include discussions of Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Morrison, Fergus Hume, and of the Strand Magazine more widely.
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Cite this Lecture
Pittard, C. (2021, March 08). Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - The Uncanny [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-uncanny-39c8f5c4-2d51-44e7-92f9-04174a2f454b
Pittard, Christopher. "Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – The Uncanny." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021, https://massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-uncanny-39c8f5c4-2d51-44e7-92f9-04174a2f454b