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doppelganger

doppelganger The coinage of the term Doppelgänger (commonly Anglicized as ‘doppelganger’) is not certain, but it was a sufficiently unfamiliar term for the writer Jean Paul Richter to have to gloss it in a footnote to his novel, Siebenkäs, of 1796. According to this founding definition Doppelgänger (literally ‘doublegoer’, by contrast with the German Einzelgänger, or loner) is the name given to ‘people who see themselves’. It seems, then, that there is uncertainty from the start as to whether the apparently original self or its alter ego is the double in question. This indicates the fundamental level at which the phenomenon challenges conventions of identity, by making the self see itself double (or, more precisely, see itself going double, as a duplicate body which may go its own way).

Seeing is the primary category here; the Doppelgänger, as it appears and reappears in literary and other cultures, is above all a thing of visual fascination and terror. It corresponds in this sense to the clinical condition of autoscopy: the relatively rare cases of psychological bilocation where individuals see themselves in another body. But the Doppelgänger challenges the location of the self in a coherent and singular body in other ways as well. Thus, it specializes in ventriloquism, appropriating the voice as sound-image of a bodily identity (more akin in this to the clinical shape of schizophrenia). In most cases of the Doppelgänger, sound and image work together to ensure potentially successful imposture.

Classic literary cases like R. L. Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde show how the Doppelgänger may appropriate the body in particular in order to commit excesses of violence and sex. In the case of Jekyll and Hyde, this appropriation works through metamorphosis, a violent changing of bodily shape, rather than the purloining of a body's original appearance, its mirror-image, its portrait, or its shadow (as in the many variations on the myth of the Schlehmihl figure who sold his shadow to the devil). Thus notions of doubling involve not only replications of identity, but also transformations in identity, where the self appears to be in the wrong body. A case which combines the two possibilities would be Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray.

At its extreme, transformation into an other self can challenge perhaps the most primary of bodily identifications: that of gender. The Doppelgänger as a cultural construct has been largely the preserve of men, representing the Faustian prerogative to be split between two souls or identities. In the canonical versions of the Doppelgänger story any cases of female doubling tend to be a symptom of objectification for the schismatic desires of a male subject rather than exploring the possibility of constitutional splits in female subjectivity. The eponymous protagonist of Robert Musil's Man without Qualities is doubled by his twin sister, but, given that the female form — Doppelgängerin — has no proper currency in German, the transgender double can only be framed here as the ‘Doppelgänger in the other sex’. If the Doppelgänger is indeed gendered male, then it frequently embodies gender trouble for the masculine subject.

As a cultural figure or figment, the Doppelgänger has a special relationship to theories grounded in the psychosomatic. It recurrently operates against the context of scientific or pseudo-scientific theories of psychological schism, and especially of the constituent splitting of bodily and psychic identities. It is supplied variously by mystical theories of the astral body, by the conjecture of animal magnetism, and by the subsequent cults of hypnosis and somnambulism. And it sees a resurgence in the early twentieth century as a corollary of psychoanalytic theories of the split ego. Indeed, in the culture of Modernism, it can be seen as figuring the ambivalent fascination which Freudian psychoanalysis held for contemporary literature and film. Early cinema in the style of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari offered a particularly apt medium for the projection of double identities, for case-histories on release from the cabinets of Drs Freud and company. For Freud, the Doppelgänger is the archetypal figure of the uncanny, embodying the return of the repressed, of all that ‘should have remained hidden but has emerged’ to haunt the security of the psychic household.

While it has been conventional to follow Tzvetan Todorov in seeing the extensive theorization of the split self in psychoanalysis as producing the endgame of the Doppelgänger as cultural construct, this now seems premature. The post-Freudian age yields no shortage of material for a reactivation of the Gothic bogey-man. Feminism helps enable the bogey-man to become a bogey-woman, a Doppelgängerin proper (such as in Emma Tennant's reworking of Stevenson's strange case as that of Ms Jekyll and Mrs Hyde in her Two Women of London). The troubling of corporeal and psychological identity in the age of computer and genetic science, and the projections of alternative identities afforded by film and other media, also open up new dimensions for the Doppelgänger. The likes of David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers or Kryzstof Kieslowski's Double Life of Veronique would suggest that the late twentieth-century cultural psyche was not simply at home in, and at one with, its body.

Alan W. Cuthbert


See also hallucination; psychological disorders; psychosomatic illness.

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doppelgänger

doppelgänger an apparition or double of a living person. The word (recorded from the mid 19th century) comes from German, literally ‘double-goer’.

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"doppelgänger." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"doppelgänger." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/doppelganger

doppelgänger

dop·pel·gäng·er / ˈdäpəlˌgangər/ • n. an apparition or double of a living person.

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"doppelgänger." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"doppelgänger." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/doppelganger-1

doppelgänger

doppelgängerbanger, clanger, ganger, hangar, hanger, haranguer, Sanger, Stavanger •headbanger • doppelgänger •straphanger • cliffhanger •paperhanger •bringer, clinger, flinger, humdinger, pinger, ringer, singer, slinger, springer, stinger, stringer, swinger, winger, wringer, zinger •Schrödinger • mud-slinger •gunslinger • bell-ringer • klipspringer •Helsingor •prolonger, tonga, wronger •ponga

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"doppelgänger." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/doppelganger-0