In this article, we pursuit a critic presentation of the tale Sandman , by E. Hoffmann, inserted on the psychoanalytic universe by Freud, in , in Das Unheimliche. In a first moment, this study presents that literary material, verifying the narrative complexity and the richness of the elements that composes it. After, examining it under the angle of passion, precisely, as a narrative regarding the experience of a passion folly that culminates in a tragicity of that nature. We propose to conceive the psychic mechanism of alienation as intrinsic to the automatism phenomenon, distinctive of a passionate condition.

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In this article, we pursuit a critic presentation of the tale Sandman , by E. Hoffmann, inserted on the psychoanalytic universe by Freud, in , in Das Unheimliche. In a first moment, this study presents that literary material, verifying the narrative complexity and the richness of the elements that composes it. After, examining it under the angle of passion, precisely, as a narrative regarding the experience of a passion folly that culminates in a tragicity of that nature.

We propose to conceive the psychic mechanism of alienation as intrinsic to the automatism phenomenon, distinctive of a passionate condition. It is possible to establish such process, both in the discursive text modulations, as in the constitution of the characters, more specifically in Natanael and Olympia. From this perspective, it becomes clear the automaton as a figure of passion. It is a mental condition characterized by a sense of disturbance faced with a strange familiarity — the return of something familiar in the form of a stranger.

For Freud, the boy, fixed to the father by the castration complex, becomes incapable of loving the woman. Thus, the following elaborations intend to present another analytical perspective. We seek to highlight the importance of the recovery of this literary material at its source, precisely due to the possibility of presenting it from the perspective of lustful madness.

In this work perspective, this study is also part of an attempt to find a moment of the Freudian work in which the meeting of the material on the subject of passionate madness is plausible. At this time, there is no intention to perform a study regarding the relationship between the author, E. Hoffman, and his work, although this aspect is of relevance in literary criticism and is an important aspect for the study proposal that seeks to bring psychoanalysis and literature together; however, this is not exactly the focus of this study.

However, some observations regarding the genre and narrative structure will be considered. It should be mentioned that Hoffman endowed his main character, Nathaniel, with the characteristics of the clinical conditions described in Pinel thesis on madness, which he encountered in the Medico-Philosophical Treatise on Mental Alienation, Cesarotto, Hoffman is recognized as one of the representatives of German Romanticism and a master of magical realism.

Regarding the relationships between psychoanalysis and fantastic literature, the important study of Kon showed the intrinsic relationship between these fields by verifying the temporal and thematic proximity that exists between them, such as the role that fantasy literature occupied in the formation of psychoanalysis.

There is the meeting of topics, such as madness, duality, sexuality, etc. The Sandman is composed by different narrators, allowing more than one point of view.

This modifies the narrative, introducing a complexity to the literary structure. Initially, the story presents three letters and, in the final part, a third-person narrative, in the omnipresent and omniscient voice of a narrator addressing a reader.

The second, Clara sent back to him, and the final one, was again from Nathaniel, the young student, to Lothar. At first, they refer to memories, narrated in the first person, as Nathaniel is addressing his words to Lothar. In the final part, a narrator, who was entrusted with the letters, tells the story in the third person. Here another character emerges, the reader.

At the same time, the narrator, as the guardian of these correspondences, is a narrator-witness who, in turn, demands other witnesses, among them, the reader. A complex narrative structure is observed, not only because it is of the genre of magic realism, in the style of a memoir, but mainly due to this configuration of narrative plans. It is interesting that Freud chose a piece of fantastic literature, as well as the work of one of the representatives of German Romanticism, to address the theme of the uncanny.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that, when presenting a differentiation between the uncanny of fiction and that of the experiences, the former is seen to be much broader, covering other conditions beyond disturbances produced by experiences. The issue of gender and narrative structure can be noted, since this complexity is not dissociated from the issue addressed, namely the uncanny.

In it the character describes the establishment of the childhood belief in the Sandman figure. Later Nathaniel describes his meeting with a seller of barometers. The construction of the Sandman figure came initially from the descriptions of his mother and a nursemaid and later, through his own images, he tried to construct a representation of the monster, leading to the belief in its existence, with Copellius as its embodiment.

This path is circumscribed by the maternal presence, also registered by the insignias of sadness, precisely when Copellius enters the story. Prior to this he had asked his mother, however, the response that she gave him was unsatisfactory. It is possible to infer that the description of the nursemaid emerged in the place of a failure of the maternal discourse regarding the Sandman. Thus, the nursemaid provided the description, from which Nathaniel felt terrified, forming a horrible impression of the Sandman.

He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children, who sit in the nest up there. They have crooked beaks like owls so that they can pick up the eyes of naughty human children. Ibid, p. From this description, the Sandman began to make an evening appearance.

Given these impressions without form, the only thing he was left with was horrified screams. Years passed and, guided by stories of goblins, witches and elves, but, above all, by the Sandman, the boy would draw him with chalk or charcoal, trying to give him shape. The figure was first followed as a form of impression and only later would it take the form of an image with certain delineations, however, Nathaniel was not satisfied with just the description given by the maid and decided to verify the appearance of the ghost.

Only at a second time, faced with the figure of Coppelius the lawyer, Nathaniel gave form to the description, a framework to the impression and of which he became bewitched. Thus the representation of the figure of the Sandman emerged, which was configured in a belief in its existence. Coppelius always appeared in an ashen-gray coat, cut in old fashioned style, with waistcoat and breeches of the same color, while his stockings were black, and his shoes adorned with agate buckles.

His little peruke scarcely reached farther than the crown of his head, his curls stood high above his large red ears, and a broad hair-bag projected stiffly from his neck, so that the silver clasp which fastened his folded cravat might be plainly seen. It was also in this position that Nathaniel first encountered Olympia.

This point will be taken up in the commentary of the third letter. An important issue highlights the concerns about the creation of the Sandman belief being intertwined with the way the maternal place is presented to Nathaniel. This undergoes a modulation when the figure appeared, that is, it assumed aspects of the insignia of sadness.

At first, while the father and his children, after dinner, are involved in a pleasant scene of reading stories, the mother was desolate.

In her desolation, she interrupted the pleasant scene of the children with their father, sending them to bed with the threat of the Sandman. These observations allow us to infer some deductions. First, the Sandman figure was constructed in a way that goes from impressions noises and smells to the representation and belief in its existence.

This construction was built about the maternal presence, more precisely, in a modulation of state of spirit that culminated in maternal sadness.

Second, this element of belief is repeated in the meeting with Olympia, the automaton. Nothing causes any doubt that it is a woman, although what is referred to is an automaton. This correspondence, written by Clara is the shortest of the three. In it we find a rationalist discourse ruling in the spirit of a woman. Initially, there is desolation and almost no acceptance that Nathaniel wrote the first letter to his brother and not to her.

However, Clara, in turn, tries to undo this figure of imagination through a rationalist discourse, which has no effect on the imaginary excesses of her beloved. One has the impression that her words try to forcibly transpose the universe of the stranger into the strictly familiar plan.

She even asks him, Nathaniel, to renounce his beliefs. Clara represents one of the versions of the feminine that make up the story, that is the rational connotation. Clara recalls that Nathaniel gave her such an attribute. Mainly, she insists on the idea that the ghosts in the Sandman figure, as well as the lawyer and the barometer seller, are constructions of the inner world, arising from childhood beliefs.

As stated above, despite the rationalist discourse of this woman, whose name is a symbolic allusion to a bright character, nothing changed the beliefs of the young student. In this letter, the manifestation of a version of the female form in the rationalist is noticeable.

During the story, this position and that of Olympia will establish a love duel in the life of Nathaniel. According to Cesarotto , the place of the women appears as an unattainable object: the closer it is, the more it becomes impossible, the incidence of distress that crushes any pleasure. Clara, his original passion, similar to a sister, is the repository of his love, almost like him. This argument suggests that the young student finds a certain return to his automaton condition in Olympia.

This can be proposed, as Nathaniel is dominated by passion in the strict sense of the term: he is driven by his pathos, passion and suffering, in a condition of alienation.

On this issue, part of this work will focus on thinking about the automaton as a figure of passion. That is, the automaton as a form of representation of passion; in this sense, the figure of the passion is a language resource established as a representation attempt, since passion does not have its own representability. In this letter, Nathaniel talks about his meeting with the doll Olympia 3. Initially, it is interesting to highlight the structure of the scene, as in this elements converge close to those of which he, as a child, knew Coppelius, the moment in which the first impressions of the Sandman figure were constituted.

As mentioned earlier, when Coppelius came to the house of his parents, he used to hide behind the curtain. Nathaniel knew that he was in danger of being discovered and punished.

Now, as a young student of the famous professor of physics, Spalanzani, and based in G. Here a similar position to that of the initial character is repeated: through the curtain, these objects are presented with a strange familiarity.

Thus, he describes it:. She sat opposite the door, so that I could see the whole of her angelic countenance. She did not appear to see me, and indeed there was something fixed about her eyes as if, I might almost say, she had no power of sight. It seemed to me that she was sleeping with her eyes open. Also, in these, which did not appear to see , there is a representation of a certain somber aspect of the maternal condition of Nathaniel.

In these elements, together with the position of the child — peering through a curtain — a composition of the return of childhood elements is noted in this scene. Shortly after the narrative of this meeting, there is a modulation in the form of address in the writing of Nathaniel. He goes back to Lothar and recalls his relationship with Clara. Here another narrative perspective emerges: the tale passes to the omniscient and omnipresent voice of the narrator in the third person, the narrator-witness who was entrusted with these letters.

It can be observed that after the story of the meeting between Nathaniel and Olympia the voice of the young student disappears from the text.

Thus, with the unfolding of the plot, other narratives about the meetings between them are conducted in the voice of the narrator in the third person, a young student and friend who is the guardian of the letters and a witness to his passion. This narrative form is used in the majority of the story. Thus, it is possible to suggest that the narrative capacity of the young man in love succumbed to the passion.

It is possible, from that, to observe one of the fundamental traits of a passionate madness: an impoverishment of narrative or near impossibility of representation. Also, in the form of this silence of the mute character, it is possible to infer a similar position to that of his mother.


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The story is told by a narrator who claims to have known Lothar. It begins by quoting three letters:. Nathanael recalls his childhood terror of the legendary Sandman, who was said to steal the eyes of children who would not go to bed and feed them to his own children who lived in the moon. Nathanael came to associate the Sandman with a mysterious nightly visitor to his father. He recounts that one night, he hid in his father's room to see the Sandman. It is Coppelius, an obnoxious lawyer come to carry out alchemical experiments. Coppelius begins taking "shining masses" out of the fire and hammering them into face-like shapes without eyes.


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