The paper suggests that the increasing proliferation of network fictions in literature, film, television and the internet may be interpreted through a theoretical framework that reconceptuallises the originally strictlypsychoanalytic concept of the Unheimlich (Freud's idea of the ‘unhomely' or ‘uncanny') within the context of political, economic and cultural disources fo globalisation. ‘Network fictions' are those texts consisting of multiple interlocking narratives set in various times and places that explore the interconnections of characters and events across different storylines: novels such as William Gibson's Pattern Recognition (2003), Hari Kunzro's Transmission (2005) and Gods Without Men (2011), David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (2004), or Rana Dasgupta's Tokyo Cancelled (2005) are some examples. My argument is that central to these fictions is a sense of a ‘global unhomely'. The sense of displacement, unhomeliness and global mobility that is conveyed in these fictions is fundamental to the experience of the Unheimlich. In addition, the ability of the concept to convey a combined sense of the familiar and the strange is useful in exploring the ways in which these fictions engage with theoretical debates on globalisation that perceive the interaction between global flows and local cultures either in terms of homogenisation and uniformity or of heterogenisationand hybridity. Moreover, the repetitive temporality of the Unheimlich is another distinctive aspect that allows a reading of the disjunctive, non-linear temporal structure of these fictions from this perspective. The‘repetition compulsion', however, that Freud considered to be an example of uncanniness was also theorised by him as a post-traumatic symptom, and this implicit association of uncanniness with post-traumatic experience also allows to interpret the persistent preoccupation of these fictions with suffering and disaster, as well as their explorations of the ways in which collective tragedy and personal trauma reverberate within an increasingly globalised, interconnected world.
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- David Mitchell
- Hari Kunzru