Stephen Abell

Small-town screwballs and surprises

In a 1925 essay, Freud unearthed an important linguistic truth about the concept of the uncanny (unheimlich). He noticed that it had drifted very close to its apparent antonym heimlich, which starts out as ‘homely’ and can, via ‘private and personal’, become ‘secretive and repressed’. This enabled him to offer the more important psychological insight that things closest to home can be the most disconcerting, that often the familial is really the least familiar.

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