Past Event

"*POSTPONED* What's uncanny in the Unheimliche?"

Sergio Benvenuto, Ph.D.

A long psychoanalytic tradition has viewed the Freudian uncanny (Unheimliche) as a variant of anxiety or anguish, and thus assigns the uncanny to the psychoanalytic theory of anxiety.  In this contribution, starting from Freud’s 1919 text, Benvenuto shows how the uncanny can also not produce anguish, but even and above all a sense of perplexity as to what interpretive key (naturalist or magical-supernatural) to attribute to certain events.  Referring back to T. Todorov’s essay on littérature phantastique, Benvenuto recalls how modern this sense of the uncanny actually is (the literary genre of the “uncanny” makes its first appearance at the end of the 18th century), which opens up the question of the historicity of the unconscious.  Obtaining an uncanny effect requires that certain subjectivity which came out of the Enlightenment.


According to Benvenuto, the uncanny is an experience of what he calls the “psychosis of everyday life”, together with déja-vu, the feeling of derealization, non-psychotic erratic hallucination, and acting out.  Both literature and cinema skillfully exploit the capacity to put us into a state of “routine psychosis”, in the sense that the uncanny can seize anyone, not just psychotics.        


It is along these lines that Benvenuto shows the oscillation of the Freudian interpretation of the uncanny between Verdrangung (repression) and uberwinden (overcoming, surmounting), that is, between an explanation based on an individual unconscious (repression) or instead on a history of subjectivity (overcoming) as produced by the Enlightenment.      


Benvenuto will be sending his still unpublished (in English) article wherein he will elaborate on his analysis of the uncanny.

Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue

Saturday, April 4, 2020

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Sergio Benvenuto, Ph.D.

Sergio Benvenuto is a researcher in psychology and philosophy at the National Research Council (CNR) in Rome, Italy, and a psychoanalyst, president of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Psychoanalysis. He was trained in Paris in the 1970s at the University Paris VII, studying with Jean Laplanche. He is the founder and the editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Psychoanalysis since 1995. He's member of the Editorial Board of the journal American Imago.


He teaches psychoanalysis at the International Institute of the Psychology of Depth in Kiev, and in different Specialization Courses in Psychotherapy. He was and is a contributor to cultural journals such as Lettre Internationale,  L’évolution psychiatriqueDIVISION/Review, Cliniques Mèditérranéeenes. He has translated into Italian (for Einaudi publishing house) Jacques Lacan’s Séminaire XX: Encore.

His publications include: Perversionen. Sexualität, Ethik und Psychoanalyse, in German (Wien: Turia + Kant, 2009); Mechta Lacana, in Russian (Sankt Peterburg: Aleteija, 2006); « Perversion and charity : an ethical approach », in D. Nobus & L. Downing eds., Perversion. Psychoanalytic Perspectives / Perspectives on Psychoanalysis (London : Karnac, 2006); “The Gaze of the Blind. Notes on Cézanne and Cubism”, American Imago, vol. 70, 3, Fall 2013. “Does Perversion Need the Law?”, W. Müller-Funk, I. Scholz-Strasser, H. Westerink, Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality. The Sigmund Freud Museum Symposia 2009-2011 Leuven University Press, Leuven, 2013. “Ethics, Wonder and Real in Wittgenstein”, in Y. Gustafsson, C. Kronqvist, H. Nykänen, eds.,  Ethics and the Philosophy of Culture: Wittgensteinian Approaches, 2013, Cambridge Scholar Publishing.

“Merleau-Ponty and Hallucination”, American Imago, vol. 72, Summer 2015/2, pp. 177-196. “Dying for a signifier”, DIVISION/Review, A Quarterly Psychoanalytic Forum, 12, Summer 2015, pp. 27-8.

His books in English: with A. Molino, In Freud’s Tracks (New York: Aronson, 2008) nominated for Gradiva Award;  What Are Perversions? (London: Karnac Books, 2016; Conversations with Lacan (London: Routledge, 2019)

For all his publications, see

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