50th Post! Why ‘The Uncanny Sublime’
That is correct! This is my 50th post here on The Uncanny Sublime! I thought a good deal about what I should post for my 50th since I only have one and my 100th is 50 more posts away. Therefore, I decided to explain why my blog is called The Uncanny Sublime.
Let me begin by telling you where I had my first deep dive with the terms ‘uncanny’ and ‘sublime,’ and the revelation of what they could mean together. In my 3rd year at the University of Guelph, I took a Canadian Literature course where we examined poems, short stories, and novels that were creating the image of Canadian literature at a time when Canada was still creating its own identity. The literature mainly revolved around the landscape and the unexplored frontier of Canada and how it was a complete contrast to Europe. The new country was seen as bountiful and beautiful but also rough and dangerous in comparison to the developed and thriving European countries that settlers immigrated from. Writers producing work out of and about Canada were attempting to create an image and academic presence that was different than Britain’s and America’s.
Canada’s wildlife and landscape became the focus of the writers’ scope and the icy frontier became the subject to much mystery to readers who had only ever experienced mild winters. The novel, Icefields, was studied in my course and was my introduction to the sublime and the uncanny. The ice fields that the novel is centered around, brings together a group of characters from around the world who interact and deal with each other while experiencing the landscape of the ice. This was the uncanny; that these individuals who were so vastly different gravitated to each other simply because of the ice fields.
The uncanny is described as something or someone who appears familiar even though you have never met or have experienced that which is the subject of the familiar feeling. This feeling is similar to déjà vu, as though you are remembering something that happened to you in the past. The characters in the novel act in a very human way when encountering the uncanny: they cling to it by clinging to each other (usually via group or partnered expeditions on to the ice or through sexual encounters with each other while still technically being strangers).
The sublime is its own beast when it presents to an individual who has lead a considerably normal, mundane life. Something that is sublime has mysticism about its being, simply by existing. This is the aura the ice fields give visitors, and this is why travelers and scientists from around the world regularly visit the ice fields, and why they returned whenever they could. They are able to sense the ominous presence, the secrets that could never be told because they were a creation of something bigger than themselves, thousands of years ago. Any natural phenomena would be considered having a degree of sublime, even though scientifically they could be explained. Just realizing and coming to terms with all the elements that would need to occur in just the right way for it all to come in to existence, whatever name you want to put to it, it’s usually called sublime.
In Icefields, I came to the realization that the combination of the uncanny and the sublime becomes embodied in a single woman in the novel. In the many classes the professor used this text in, no one had thought that the product of the uncanny sublime could be an individual. Could someone be that truly unique and mysterious that the empowerment, the over-bearing sense of wondrous creation, could be felt in the presence of a single individual? Perhaps yes or perhaps yes but only when considering what elements would create such a feeling on an individual level. Could this feeling be confused with love, which is why we seek someone else to ‘complete’ us? The entire concept is a major mind-bend that can only be answered with an unnamed, unquantifiable emotion that most would probably dismiss as an improbability or even impossibility.
Now I don’t believe at this time that my writing embodies or inspires this feeling for my readers. I hope however hope that by naming my blog after this sensation or perhaps delusional concept, that my readers seek knowledge and new understanding with an open sense of wonder. Only so much can be experienced through text and reading someone else’s thoughts via their blog, but I feel that the hope of most writers is to inspire wonder towards whatever it is they write about. Whether it is fad-based or pure imagination, wonder can come from any idea.
If I am able to inspire just one person to discover their own uncanny sublime, I’ll be happy with what I’ve written. I can’t imagine any other purpose in writing other than for the hopeful search of wonder.