Literature, Art History, Psychoanalysis
The Visual Uncanny. Stendhal Syndrome as a Tension
The notion of ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ emerged in the late 1970s to describe the psychosomatic and anxious disease one experiences in beholding a work of art. My research project investigates precisely such an uncanny relationship between image and viewer from a cultural point of view, especially considering how the crucial concepts involved by the notion of ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ – art, image, viewer, uncanny, anxiety – have been questioned and dissected by contemporary theory. I am therefore focusing on the ambiguous role played by images at the intersection of literature, psychoanalysis and aesthetics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By considering the complex genealogy of the notion of 'imago' in Western European cultural history, I analyze how the supernatural traditionally connected with images is metamorphosed, after the paradigmatic break known as the Enlightenment, in an uncanny and disturbing uncertainty.