The Uncanny

Leonard suggested that I read "The Architecture of the Uncanny: The Unhomely Houses of the Romantic Sublime" by Anthony Vidler, in Assemblage #3 (1987). The focus is on the "uncanny" or the "das unheimliche" , on the contrast between nostalgia and the terror of superstition. Heimlich means "homely" and its opposite, unheimlich, "unhomely" were written about in length by Freud and the brothers Grimm, and theorized that this contrast first began as nostalgia (the homely) before gradually becoming its opposite, the unhomely. (11) The idea of superstition originated at sites that appeared desolate and vacant and in the case of using Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", a family that was in decline in a home that would eventually become a tomb and disappear into the landscape. (8) I remember thinking about this some time ago in that taking a known ruin and letting it decline even further so that it becomes unrecognizable as such. So it would remain until no one remembers what was there and the land could once again be considered for (formal) habitation.

Vidler writes that Victor Hugo, who had a similar interest in the uncanny, proposed that only exiles, fugitives and those on the margins of society could feel at home at such a place. (9) This is of interest as well, in that the operators of the thesis site are more apt to be "marginal" persons, in their thinking and awareness, not that they would be fugitives of crime. Exiles of communal society perhaps.

On page 12, I came across a passage in which a definition by a philosopher named Schelling suggested that unheimlich '"is the name for everything that ought to have remained ...secret and hidden but has come to light.'" (12) To this, Vedler wrote:

"Indeed, his formulation, anticipating Nietzsche, asserted the necessary existence of the uncanny as a force to be overcome, a first step toward the birth of poetry." (12)

If the uncanny is a force to overcome -- that is, if stratified overgrowth sets the stage for a "rite of passage" -- an event/process/challenge that needs to be overcome -- in a 'desolate' landscape of ruin then ... well, that's something when I read that the uncanny is a form of the sublime, as much as a fairytale is a sub-genre of the sublime. I don't know yet if a form, any form, of the sublime is truly a part of my thesis because a part of the definition of it is that is something unattainable. A transcendence of thought is something attainable in this landscape, but I don't know how to make it so.