Yea for the Literary Blog Hop being back in regular rotation at The Blue Bookcase. I felt compelled to answer this one right away and I can't wait to see other answers, because I'm a total literature dork, and I love literary terminology.
The question is:
What is one of your favorite literary devices? Why do you like it? Provide a definition and an awesome example.
I went back and forth with pastiche (which would certainly be my second choice), but I settled on the uncanny. Freud has an essay entitled "The Uncanny," which is an investigation of the meaning of the word as applied to literature and to experience. If you haven't read Freud, this is my favorite essay, especially for literary types. The word uncanny, comes from the German, unheimliche, which means literally un-home-like. However, it also contains within its definition the heimliche, or the homelike. The uncanny is that which is both strange and familiar at once. The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms (via Bookrags) has this to say about the uncanny: "Precariously located in the liminal space of the in-between, it calls into question established norms and boundaries, especially those between the familiar and unfamiliar, imagination and reality, inside and outside (psychical and material realms) and self and other." Liminality is another of my favorite concepts, and although the uncanny has a straightforward application in discussing Gothic literature, there is also a deconstructive component to any examination of the uncanny.
I like the uncanny because it is easy to apply and there are lots of instances of the uncanny in many of my favorite texts. The examples in Freud of course lead us to the traumatizing experience of birth and the fear of castration (shocking), but the uncanny in practice is often applied to Gothic texts, without harking back to infantile anxieties. I think the house in Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves is a great example of the uncanny. The once familiar home, becomes more and more horrifying to its inhabitants as it expands indefinitely on the inside, and yet remains the same. For your visual pleasure, here is a photograph often used to illustrate the concept of the uncanny:
|Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, 1967|
Does it seem strange and yet familiar to you?