The Double as the

The Double as the "Unseen" of Culture: Toward a Definition of Doppelgänger
The Double as the "Unseen" of Culture: Toward a Definition of Doppelgänger

Author(s): Milica Živković
Subject(s): Literary Texts
Published by: Универзитет у Нишу

Summary/Abstract: Despite a considerable interest in the fictional double, as a literary device for articulating the experience of self-division, the motif of the double seems to resist narrow catagorization and definition. The starting position in the attempt to arrive at a comprehensive definition is founded on the assumption that the fictional double is not a literary motif but a construction of traditional culture – myth, legend and religion. Although surviving as a perennial motif present in all literary styles, periods and genres the double is never "free" – it is not "outside" time but produced within and determined by its social context. Though it often struggles against the limits of this context, it cannot be understood in isolation from it. Its origins in traditional culture make him a motif liable to semantic changes because literature tends to adjust its treatment of the double to the respective culture, being in functional correlation with it. In a progressively secularized culture dialogues of self and the double are increasingly acknowledged as being colliloquies within the self: the double has become an aspect of personal and interpersonal life, a manifestation of unconscious desire. Through the introduction of some modern psychoanalitic theories, it has been possible to claim for the double motif a subversive function. Signifying a desire to be reunited with a lost centre of personality the double shows in graphic forms a tension between the "laws of human society" and the resistance of the unconscious mind to these laws. In this way the double changes the focus from intrapsychic psychology toward a view of the social structures. It points to the basis upon which cultural order rests tracing the unseen and the unsaid of culture: that which has been silenced by the symbolic, rational discourse. Many dual and disintegrated bodies in modern literature violate the most cherished of all human unities: the unity of 'character", drawing attention to its relative nature and its ideological assumptions, mocking the blind faith in psychological coherence and in the value of sublimation as a "civilizing" activity. Like its mythical predecessor, the double in modern literature desires transformation and difference. By attempting to transform the relations between the imaginary and the symbolic, the double hollows out the real, revealing its absence, its great other, its unspoken and its unseen.

  • Issue Year: 02/2000
  • Issue No: 07
  • Page Range: 121-128
  • Page Count: 8
  • Language: English