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By Laurie Ruth Johnson

Esthetic anxiousness analyzes uncanny repetition in psychology, literature, philosophy, and picture, and produces a brand new narrative concerning the centrality of aesthetics in sleek subjectivity. the usually terrible, yet occasionally additionally relaxing, event of hysteria should be a cultured mode in addition to a mental country. Johnson's elucidation of that country in texts through authors from Kant to Rilke demonstrates how estrangement can produce attachment, and repositions Romanticism as an engine of modernity.

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Extra resources for Aesthetic Anxiety: Uncanny Symptoms in German Literature and Culture (Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft, Volume 141)

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15 Karl Philipp Moritz, Fragmente aus dem Tagebuche eines Geistersehers, in Werke, ed. Horst Günther (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1981) 3: 302. ’” He examines essays on aesthetic theory written in nineteenthcentury England, such as Anne Laetitia Barbauld’s On the Pleasure Derived From Objects of Terror and An Enquiry Into the Kinds of Distress Which Excite Agreeable Sensations (1825), in order to analyze a Gothic aesthetics of fear already, in my view, anticipated by German philosophers and psychologists a few decades prior.

Superficially, the aesthetics of fear in the eighteenth century has much to do with the visible—depictions of feelings of horror, symbolic renderings of fright reactions and of perceptions of decay and death (as in the Laocoön). Such reactions were attributed generally to immediate, equally visible causes. Carsten Zelle explains that the basic definition of a fright reaction (or the affect of fright) as revealing a “high degree of fear” (ein hoher Grad der Furcht”) was tied specifically to something surprising; one reacts with an expression of fright to an “unexpected ill or to an unsuspected danger” (“Schrecken ist eine plötzlich erregte Fucht vor einem unerwarteten Übel oder einer unvermuteten Gefahr”).

All memory is not uncanny, and memory does of course reside in the mind of the remembering subject; memory is “my own,”56 located in me, as well as centrifugal, outward-directed. But uncanny memories, I argue, have a particular way of “reaching out” to the world outside, as Casey would say. Uncanny memories and the aesthetically charged anxiety they sustain create a marginal, or “liminal,” state of “no-longer and not-yet”57 that imbricates us intimately with others. Freud’s uncanny collection of ghostly, “dead but unburied” objects is representative of such liminality, but examples of more modest scope appear in literature, philosophy, and psychology from the late eighteenth century onward.

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