115 Freud’s Uncanny Meets a Dream Play

Timothy Mooneyhan


Seeing A Dream Play here at PSU was definitely an experience. The entire time I was confused as to what was going on. The whole ordeal brought on a sense of uncanniness for me. There were parts of it that seemed familiar, like ideas about life on Earth being hard and about finding meaning to life, but the rest of it was filled with confusing characters, scattered plotline, and repeated themes.

The name more than fits the title, because it very much felt like a dream—an overly confusing and unsettling one at that. The story followed a young goddess who was sent to Earth to find out how humans live. She ended up realizing that life on Earth is miserable and that where they were led to believe there’s some ultimate answer waiting to be revealed, that it’s all a lie. She ends up wanting to go back to where she came because living on Earth was too hard.

This play very much reminded me of the Uncanny by Freud. The feeling Freud talks about when something familiar becomes Uncanny, odd, and eerie, is exactly what I felt while watching the play. The way the story was set up, the placement of characters/actors, and the way characters were portrayed were similar to stories used as examples by Freud. Like The Sand Man, A Dream Play made me question reality in general. This happened because of the bizarre ways in which the story progressed.

What seems important about The Uncanny though is that what happens is a consequence of something repressed. The whole “dream” seems to be happening because of whoever might be having it has repressed their thoughts about life not being worth living and that there are no real answers. It has presented itself in the form of a terrifying, creepy, dream that is tied to reality.

Freud’s definition of The Uncanny actually hit it home for me regarding the play. He says that “it named the effects of the unconscious that surprise us and create an effect of ‘uncanniness’ because we are unaware of the operation of the unconscious” (Rivkin and Ryan, 418). The dream could have easily been my own because the thoughts are ones that I have also repressed quite a bit and seeing them come out on stage scared me more than I would have imagined. The weirdness of the play mimicked the effects that Freud was talking about. I felt a sense of strangeness and mystery, with a bit of shock and uneasiness.

A play like this solidifies ideas about The Uncanny, while also questioning the required looseness of an example’s form. By this, I mean that A Dream Play showed that it can represent the uncanny without being told in a more realistic setting like that of The Sand Man. On the other hand, critical theory helps us look at community events and see things that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I never would have seen the main themes as something repressed if I had not been exposed to Freud’s theory. This is the way in which theory and the community interact with one another. Without each other, each one cannot grow as much as they can together.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Timothy Mooneyhan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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