-- In this essay Freud plays the part of a literary critic who tries to explain the of a certain kind of literature; he is concerned with literary . Coherent with this literary orientation is the fact that he begins his analysis with considerations: the meaning of the word "uncanny" (), its etymology, history, historical development, general use, etc.
This essay was written by Freud to honour his friend, Romain Rolland, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Freud was 80 at the time. It recounts a journey to Athens which Freud made with his brother Alexander (also ten years younger than Freud) some 35 years earlier. In the essay Freud tells how the opportunity unexpectedly presented itself for the brothers to travel to Athens, but instead of feeling pleasure they were both plunged into a gloomy mood, and made their travel arrangements with little enthusiasm. When they finally arrived on the Acropolis Freud had a strange experience - what he called a 'de-realization'. The thought came into his head "So it really does exist! I can't believe it!".
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True, Freud delighted in painting the blue veins pulsing beneath the skin, but for the most part, that is as deep as his portrayals get. In , Grieg discusses “Some Thoughts on Painting,” an essay Freud wrote for the July 1954 issue of , a literary magazine edited by Stephen Spender (with whom he later had a falling-out). Despite the intervening half-century since the essay’s publication, Freud tells Grieg that his “views had barely altered.” Grieg writes: