Hieronymus Bosch

Netherlands / 1450 - 1516 / wikipedia / salon.com
"Why Bosch’s Hell feels so real: The answers lie in Freud, Jung and the humble cronut
On the 500th anniversary of the painter's death, we examine why this specific vision of eternal damnation endures.

Dolls have always freaked me out. I do not attribute this to some formative trauma — I’ve never been attacked by dolls, and I have staunchly avoided any horror movies featuring them. But I still won’t go near my 3-year-old daughter’s creepily lifelike Bambolina. Slip it under the covers next to me in bed, and we could reproduce that scene from “The Godfather.”

This got me wondering, what is it about dolls that are so creeptastic? The more realistic they are, the worse (though my daughter might argue otherwise). Well, Freud has an explanation for this, as he does for all things. Realistic dolls embody the unheimlich, which is roughly translated as “the uncanny” (not, as I originally thought, something to do with the Heimlich maneuver). As he wrote, the uncanny “derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown, but something strangely familiar which detects our efforts to separate ourselves from it.”

In Freud’s 1919 essay entitled “The Uncanny,” he describes a story in which a doll that appears to be real “I cannot think — and I hope most readers of the story agree with me — that the theme of the doll named Olympia, who is to all appearances a living being, is…the most important element that must be held responsible for the quite unparalleled atmosphere of uncanniness evoked by the story.” The doll is creepy, uncanny, because it seems to straddle two worlds, living human and plastic toy. It is a liminal object.

Liminal zones or beings occupy the narrow space between two opposites, a bit of both, wholly neither. Twilight is the liminal time between day and night. Venice is a liminal city, between aquatic and terrestrial. A centaur..."
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