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The 'Uncanny' and The Android


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9345

The 'Uncanny' and The Android

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Title: The 'Uncanny' and The Android
Author: Cooperstein, Noah
Advisor(s): Schroeter, Katja
Committee Member(s): Baackmann, Susanne
Stone, James
Department: Foreign Languages and Literatures
Subject: uncanny
Blade Runner
Degree Level: Masters
Abstract: The character of the android is found widely in film and literature. While she appears across the entire spectrum of genres, she most often makes her appearance in the uncanny text. This appearance is nearly always accompanied by some variation of the vision motif. Despite wide spread interest in both the ‘Uncanny’ and the android, to date, there is not a theory which accounts for the uncanny nature of the android and the prevalence of the vision motif in the android text. This paper will attempt to develop just such a theory. Any paper that addresses the ‘Uncanny’ must begin with Freud’s 1919 essay, The Uncanny. While this paper does not propose a psychoanalytic reading of the android, Freud’s work establishes the relationship between the android and the binary oppositions of strange/familiar, alive/dead and animate/inanimate. This discussion of binary oppositions leads to Ernst Jentsch’s 1909 publication, “On the Psychology of the Uncanny.” Jentsch’s work is used to develop the uncanniness of the mechanical nature of life. Following Jentsch, Masahiro Mori’s 1970 publication, “The Uncanny Valley,” places the human and the android on the same continuum, thus eliminating the opposition of man/machine. This, in turn, leads into a discussion of Donna Haraway’s The Cyborg Manifesto. Haraway’s model of the cyborg moves the discussion even further from dichotomous thought. The ‘Uncanny,’ it is concluded, is located at the midpoint of the binary pair. The android is uncanny because of her pivotal role in the dissolution of such pairs. Specifically, she compromises the mechanical/organic dichotomy. The android illustrates the mechanical nature of all life, thus making all life uncanny. The absolute foregrounding of vision in the android text requires a rethinking of the android. While android life is no different than human life in its mechanical qualities, the android nonetheless retains one fundamental difference: the android is designed. Thus androids, through an adaptation of Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema,” can be thought of as to-be-looked-at-ness machines. This enters the android into a reciprocal relationship with the camera, the looking-at-machine. It is this reciprocal machine-machine relationship which explains the ubiquitous pairing of the android with themes of vision.
Graduation Date: May 2009
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9345

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