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Products for Grant FA-57426-13

The Concept of the "Uncanny" in 20th-Century Austro-German Thought
John Zilcosky, University of Toronto

Grant details:

“Hermann Hesse’s Colonial Uncanny: *Robert Aghion*, 1913” (Article)
Title: “Hermann Hesse’s Colonial Uncanny: *Robert Aghion*, 1913”
Author: John Zilcosky
Abstract: Hermann Hesse's readers associate him with the “East” yet generally ignore his earliest writing on the topic: the mixed-genre masterpiece about India, *Robert Aghion* (1913). I argue that *Aghion* is a sophisticated critique of colonialism in which no one is innocent, not even the “anticolonial” hero Aghion. Through Hesse's self-fictionalization as Aghion, he casts a critical light on his own anticolonial exoticism: Aghion, like the young Hesse, hates colonialism because it creates a frighteningly “uncanny” ("unheimlich") mixture of India and Europe, and so ruins Aghion's fantasies of purity. By referring to India as "unheimlich," Hesse connects his story to an early twentieth-century psychoanalytic discourse more apt for understanding *Aghion* than late twentieth-century postcolonial theory, specifically Homi Bhabha's “hybridity.” Whereas Bhabha focuses on the colonialist's fear of difference, Hesse presents an India so full of hybrid “natives” and European doppelgängers that Aghion cannot find the difference that he would, in Bhabha's model, have to disavow. Mirror images are everywhere, troubling Aghion with the same returns that Freud will describe only six years later: of ancient narcissisms, primitive beliefs, and repressed infantile ideas. *Aghion* thus presents us with a new concept for understanding colonialism psychoanalytically—uncanniness—at the same time that it prefigures Freud's theorizations.
Year: 2014
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: John Zilcosky, "Hermann Hesse's Colonial Uncanny: *Robert Aghion*, 1913," *New German Critique* 41 (Fall/Winter 2014): 199-218
Access Model: subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: New German Critique
Publisher: Duke University Press