This man can write. But what is he writing about?
Essentially, this book is a commentary upon and a footnote to, Freud's essay The Uncanny.
Each chapter heading excited me: The Sandman, The death drive, Buried alive, deja vu, The double, The private parts of Jesus Christ etc. I thought this was going to be an exploration of these themes within the genre of Gothic fiction and horror films. It was mostly about Freud. There was so much more that could have been done.
There were some fascinating bits. For example, he quotes from the famous Hamlet soliloquy the lines:
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returnsnoting the potential wordplay between bourn and born and asks what a 'bourn' is? He quotes the definition from the New Shorter OED: "a boundary (between fields, etc.); a frontier" as well as two definitions deriving from a misunderstanding of this line in Shakespeare. So a bourn is a threshold, a limin (which raised substantial interest for me since I am researching liminality within education). And this prompts him to ask: what are the limits of death? (p 233)
He points out that in The Rocking Horse Winner by DHLawrence the death drive is linked to telepathy.
He points out that as God has disappeared in the west so narrators in fiction are less likely to be omniscient (pp 258 - 259). Telepathy emerges as omniscience disappears (p 261) although there has been "sympathetic clairvoyance" before telepathy (p 260)
Also in Hamlet, Royle points out that the play starts with the guard wishing one another 'good night' three times in the first twenty lines; at the end of the play when Hamlet dies, Horatio says: "Good night, sweet prince". Neat symmetry!
These were some fascinating moments but I might have done better just to have read the Freud.
- "Something comes back because in some sense it was never properly there in the first place." (p 84)
- "The aim of all life is death." (p 84)
- "If silence is golden there will have been something deadly about its glitter." (p 86)
- "The death drive has to do with the figure of a woman" especially a silent woman as in Cordelia in Lear 'Love and be silent' Act 1 scene 1, 54