31 May 2010

Another uncanny double in my life. So uncanny I can't even write about it. Something to do with names. Hopefully, when this paper is over, I will be free of much more than just the weight of responsibility of scholarship.

25 May 2010

double trouble

Further proof that I need to stop thinking about Freud as soon as possible: I went to the Media Center today to watch the VHS of Die Tote Stadt I'd requested from UCSD, and saw someone at another video cubby who looked almost exactly like a friend of mine. I gave him a big smile and a wave, then realizing my mistake, apologized and hastily sequestered myself at my assigned television.

Terrifying. What's next?

24 May 2010

Das Unheimliche

"I don't read Freud anymore," Harold Bloom wheezed at our seminar at Yale, which only Harold Bloom could entitle How to Read Poetry. "The more I read back in my student days, the more Freudian slips I made, until my conversations were full of them! So I stopped reading Freud." Hanging on his every word, I duly noted his indirect warning in my notebook.

Yet even Bloom's injunction did not finally prevent me from approaching Freud from two directions this past semester. At Gail's suggestion, I read Freud's essay on the uncanny in order to frame my discussion of belfries and musical automata and their relationship to the supernatural, extraordinary, and violent. Starting on my second writing project with Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera Die Tote Stadt with the uncanny on the brain, I began to think more about uncanny doubles. The protagonist, Paul, meets a dancer named Marietta--the spitting image of his beloved dead wife, Marie. The same singer plays both Marietta and Marie's ghost, and many directors take the opportunity to splash a proliferation of images of Marie (Paul fetishizes her portrait) across the stage, double other roles and other props, and even double the characters themselves (e.g. Willy Decker's production, shown above).

The more time I spend grappling with the uncanny, the more uncanny doubles have started to appear in my life. It began on the day I was to present the ideas structuring my paper to the seminar. To bolster my self-confidence, I donned the sole pink article of clothing in my wardrobe, a draped, caped McQ shirt that is my pride and joy and surely utterly unique in form and color. The other half of my H&L cohort appeared wearing a multilayer draped pink shirt--one of the only pink items in her closet.

After giving my presentation, I was duly informed by two classmates that a student of Carolyn Abbate had recently given a paper on the same stagings of Die Tote Stadt and highlighted the exact same scenes. (Thankfully, his argument was of a different nature and purpose.)

And today, Bruno informs me that my Doppelgänger is marching around Brussels: a Francophone girl several years my junior. Thank goodness we established that I am surely the evil twin, and she the boring one.

Doppelgängers and das Unheimliche are closing in on me. Why didn't I listen to my sage professor? Bloom knew what would happen to me all along. He foreshadowed it when he sent identical letters of recommendation to the Lizzy for myself and another student at the same time. For which I am still entirely grateful--what a splash we made, whoever we two were!