“The Sandman,” Presentism, and the Uncanny

This week, we’ll be tackling presentism: a contentious topic among historical scholars. These readings are designed to give you a taste of one of the hottest debates surrounding Victorian lit right now and fodder to put it to praxis.

  • Please start with the V21 Manifesto — an argument in favor of strategic presentism and crash course in presentism versus historicism.
  • Then read “We Have Always Been Presentist”— a self-evident argument that takes presentism into the realm of consciousness.
  • Finally, read the second section of Freud’s “The Uncanny” — the Freudiest of Freudian close-readings of “The Sandman.” I only plan to discuss section two in our salon; however, if you haven’t already read this essay, I encourage you to tackle it in its entirety. He does some fun etymology in section one and discusses the uncanny and literature more generally in section three.

I consider Freud’s essay an example of a presentist reading — but whether it’s “good” or “bad,” as Emily Steinlight puts it, is up for debate. More broadly, though, why does that matter? How does Freud’s present moment influence his reading of “The Sandman” ? How does Freud’s present moment influence our reading ? How does our present moment influence our reading of both “The Sandman” and “The Uncanny”? And why should we care — or not?