Travelling into the unconscious and performing desire in E.T.A. Hoffmann's and W. Beckford's 'night' works

  • Stefania Acciaioli Università di Firenze, Bonn, Colonia
Keywords: Desire, Transgression, Hoffmann, Beckford, Fantastic-Uncanny


Far from being a mere ‘genre’ with typical motifs, the ‘fantastic’ is rather a literary ‘way’ of expressing, indirectly and allusively, almost seductively and dream-like, a personal confrontation with the ineffable inexplicableness of the ‘imaginary’. He who trespasses its threshold finds himself inevitably swallowed up in a whirl progressively winding up and attracting him towards the unknown world of the confrontation between the Self and the Other. As a consequence, he feels “in dire suspense”, because the bordering experience of the ‘fantastic-uncanny’ leaves his reasonable paradigms at ‘checkmate’. Hoffmann and Beckford’s works explore the spaces of the unconscious and the “rhetoric of the inexpressible” in a mirrored way. By entering the ‘dimidiate’, subversive world of the ‘fantastic-uncanny’, they begin their journey within the Self, which, proves to be a skilled performance of desire. The comparative analysis of Die Elixiere des Teufels and Vathek shows how impulses are represented through the insistent motifs of the abyss and the double, which are present at various levels not only in these two novels, but also in the entire works of the authors. Here, they are constantly redoubled and intensified, as if in a spiral, thus representing Freud’s most uncanny concept of “repeating constriction”.



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Author Biography

Stefania Acciaioli, Università di Firenze, Bonn, Colonia

Stefania Acciaioli began teaching at the University of Bonn in 2011. Now she is a Lecturer of Italian Language at the University of Cologne and of Literature at the Department of German and Comparative Literatures at the University of Bonn. After having graduated in Modern Languages and Literatures (University of Florence, 2005), she then pursued a joint Ph.D. in “German Language and Literature/ Italian-German Studies” at the Universities of Florence and Bonn (2010). Her dissertation, entitled The Literary Trompe-l’œil, or the Ironic Smile in W. Hauff’s Work (2012), was recently published with the FUP-Dissertation Prize. In recent years, she has been continuing her research thanks to some scholarships and by participating in international conferences. She has also published The fantastic-uncanny in Hoffmann and Beckford (2012) and “Deconstructed Arcadia, or the anti-Journey in Italy by Heinrich Heine”, in The marble, the fountain, the precipice. German poems on Italy (2012).



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How to Cite
Acciaioli, S. (2013). Travelling into the unconscious and performing desire in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s and W. Beckford’s ’night’ works. Between, 3(5).