Aesthetic Anxiety analyzes uncanny repetition in psychology, literature, philosophy, and film, and produces a new narrative about the centrality of aesthetics in modern subjectivity. The often horrible, but sometimes also enjoyable, experience of anxiety can be an aesthetic mode as well as a psychological state. Johnson’s elucidation of that state in texts by authors from Kant to Rilke demonstrates how estrangement can produce attachment, and repositions Romanticism as an engine of modernity.

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Laurie Johnson is Associate Professor of German, Comparative Literature, and in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She published The Art of Recollection in Jena Romanticism: Memory, History, Fiction, and Fragmentation in Texts by Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis with Max Niemeyer Verlag in 2002. Johnson has published articles on Friedrich Schlegel and the practice of animal magnetism, psychosomata in Romantic psychology and literature, and Early Romantic philosophy and aesthetics.
"Laurie Johnson offers an imaginatively conceived alternative critique of modernity that reveals how the drive for the new and fast-paced engenders the counter-desire for the return of the familiar. Expertly synthesizing German literary works from Romanticism to the early twentieth century, film analyses, and texts of early empirical psychology and psychiatry, Aesthetic Anxiety offers a model of interdisciplinary work at its best and highlights the debt modern cultural studies owes German literature and culture." – Azade Seyhan, Bryn Mawr College
"With her focus on the aesthetics of fear and violence that lurks behind the facades of the beautiful and sublime, Laurie Johnson takes the reader on a voyeuristic as well as heuristic journey through the long 19th century. Long before Hartmann’s “Philosophy of the Unconscious” (1869) and Jentsch’s “On the Psychology of the Uncanny” (1906) prompted Freud’s famous reply of 1919, the uncanny fascinated writers. Johnson argues for the mutually sustaining reciprocity of irrationality and rationality, advancing her revisionist ideas in an energetically interdisciplinary fashion. Yet she remains firmly grounded in the aesthetics of literary expression. She admirably succeeds in causing us to think about the uncanny beyond the established paradigm of the dialectic of Enlightenment. The reader will find this tour de force both animating and enlightening." – John A. McCarthy, Vanderbilt University
Aesthetic Anxiety and the Uncanny
The Uncanny Before Freud: Psychological and Philosophical Aspects
Beautiful Breakdowns: Uncanny Symptoms and the Aestheticization of Illness
Conspiracy Theories: The Melancholy and Manipulated Male Subject
Too Much Memory: Uncanny Love
Conclusion: Childish Anxiety, Wish, Belief