A1 Journal article (refereed)
“Where, Meantime, Was the Soul?” : The Uncanny as an Aesthetic Image of Impossibility (2024)

Pihlaja, E. (2024). “Where, Meantime, Was the Soul?” : The Uncanny as an Aesthetic Image of Impossibility. American Imago, 81(1), 133-154. https://doi.org/10.1353/aim.2024.a923508

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsPihlaja, Eeva

Journal or seriesAmerican Imago



Publication year2024


Issue number1

Pages range133-154

PublisherJohns Hopkins University Press

Publication countryUnited States

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessNot open

Publication channel open access

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/94432


The uncanny experience refers to unsettling feelings that emerge when confronted with events that seem remotely familiar but still strange and opaque. It relies on magical thinking, as the experience seems to take place emphatically in the sensorial realm, partly lacking symbolic quality. In this article, I approach the uncanny as representing an inability to represent, revealing discontinuities and gaps in experience. I suggest that the uncanny representation can be approached creatively and turned into an aesthetic experience. The uncanny as an aesthetic experience enables a creative elaboration of being unable to overcome a gap. Thus, it can contribute to self-growth and deepening of a subjective sense of self. To illustrate the creative potential of the uncanny I look at two examples, one from literature and the other a personal account. I further elaborate on the position of the uncanny in the field of aesthetics by comparing it with the sublime experience and suggest that the uncanny is a negative of the sublime. In the sublime, a representation of the infinite and unspeakable is formed, while the uncanny, in contrast, represents the impossibility of doing so.

Keywordsartphilosophy of artexperiences (knowledge)experiencingaesthetics

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2024

Preliminary JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-14-06 at 23:05