On E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman," and Freud's Sequel to It

Episode 86 · November 11th, 2020 · 1 hr 23 mins

About this Episode

The German polymath E. T. A. Hoffmann is one of the founding figures of what we now call weird literature. In this episode, JF and Phil discuss one of his most memorable tales, "Der Sandmann." Originally published in 1816, it is the story of a young German student whose fate is sealed by a terrifying encounter with the eponymous figure during his youth. The story packs several tropes that would later become staples of the weird: the protean monster, the double, the automaton... Your hosts discuss how Hoffmann uses these tropes without letting any of them coalesce into a stable thing in the reader's mind, thereby effecting a slowbuild of ambiguity upon ambiguity that culminates in a true paroxysm of dread. The argument is made that Freud does essentially the same thing in his famous essay "The Uncanny," wherein Hoffmann's story plays an important role.


E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Sandman
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto
Edgar Allan Poe, American writer
Sunn o))), American metal band
La Monte Young,, American composer
Stuart Davis, Aliens and Artists
Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny
Neil Gaiman, Mr. Punch
Jaques Offenbach, Tales of Hoffmann
Frank Zappa, American musician
Ernst Jentsch,, German psychiatrist
E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
Weird Studies, episodes 73 and 74 on Carl Jung