The unheimlich maneuver

Anna Kornbluh has sent me this excerpt from Jonathan Lear’s A Case for Irony (which includes a back-and-forth with Alisdair MacIntyre). She said it reminded her of my argument in Awkwardness, and in that respect, this passage especially stands out:

Ironic disruption is thus a species of uncanniness: it is an unheimlich maneuver. The life and identity that I have hitherto taken as familiar have suddenly become unfamiliar. However, there is this difference: in an ordinary experience of the uncanny, there is mere disruption: the familiar is suddenly and disruptively experienced as unfamiliar. What is peculiar to irony is that it manifests passion for a certain direction. It is because I care about teaching that I have come to a halt as a teacher. Coming to a halt in a moment of ironic uncanniness is how I manifest—in that moment—that teaching matters to me. I have a strong desire to be moving in a certain direction—that is, in the direction of becoming and being a teacher—but I lack orientation. Thus the experience of irony is an experience of would-be-directed uncanniness. That is, an experience of standard-issue uncanniness may give us goose bumps or churn our stomachs; the experience of ironic uncanniness, by contrast, is more like losing the ground beneath one’s feet: one longs to go in a certain direction, but one no longer knows where one is standing, if one is standing, or which direction is the right direction.

Awk-ward! (Bonus points for those who get the joke…)

Posted in Awkwardness (the book), Jonathan Lear. Comments Off
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