45 pages 1 hour read

Sigmund Freud

The Uncanny

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1919

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Important Quotes

Quotation Mark Icon

“Such a memory, whose value consists in the fact that it represents thoughts and impressions from a later period and that its content is connected with these by links of a symbolic or similar nature, is what I would call a screen memory.”

(“Screen Memories”, Page 15)

In this definition of a screen memory, Freud exposes the symbolic and associative structure of the unconscious. The problem of how to approach such unobservable and irrational phenomena as childhood memories and phobias scientifically is evident in Freud’s definition. Contrary to popular belief, the function of the memory is often not to preserve but to occlude. 

Quotation Mark Icon

“The real enjoyment of a literary work derives from the relaxation of tensions in our minds. Maybe this effect is due in no small measure to the fact that the writer enables us, from now on, to enjoy our own fantasies without shame or self-reproach.”

(“The Creative Writer and Daydreaming”, Page 33)

This much-cited passage has been disputed by literary critics, but has also had an undeniable impact on subsequent literary analysis. Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, and I.A. Richards are examples of influential critics who were themselves responding directly to Freud’s claims about the relation of literature to the unconscious. Freudian readings not only incorporated Freud’s ideas, such as the theory of the unconscious or the Oedipal Complex, but also the conventions of psychoanalytic practice. In his book Practical Criticism, Richards advocated cultivating a “third ear” and an evenly “hovering” attention for literature, in much the same way that a Freudian analyst would listen for the anomalies in his patients’ speech. 

Quotation Mark Icon

“The child’s overestimation of his parents is thus retained in the dreams of the normal adult.”

(“Family Romances”, Page 40)

Freud claims that the early system for comprehending the world established by the infant is retained by the adult, albeit in a more sophisticated and repressed state. It is this equivalence between childhood experiences and adult behavior that has caused such controversy ever since its submission by Freud.