About Doppelgängers & Doubles

Doppelgängers & Doubles

The mysterious, eerie, uncanny doppelgänger, a human double or figure of dual/divided identity, has haunted myth, folklore, drama, philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature, and science for centuries. In western culture, the doubling responsible for replicating, perpetuating and , in some cases, immortalizing such figures has continued its influence in modern fashion, contemporary film, science fiction, virtual reality, social media, and video games.

Our class will enhance and expand your understanding, while also providing a supportive and safe space for you to learn, practice, error, and evolve as you question, read, annotate, discuss, analyze, freewrite and blog about, research, and practice argument strategies on your way to evolving as a writer, student, and person. You will discover and your own version of a writing process that works for you, as well as your own individual voice and sense of self as a writer as you write reflectively and argumentatively while also reflecting your identity, your interests or experiences with the figure of the doppelgänger, double, or divided self.

I have designed this course to be diverse and inclusive, to challenge you, and to invite you to consider and question doppelgängers and doubles as not merely concepts, themes or metaphors, but also to understand the act of doubling as a relational process—in processes like mirroring, duplicating, or masking—and the consequences that result. With complex understanding of what divides, fractures, or doubles, reproduces identity, we can question and demystify the commonly held western belief in wholeness, singularity, and authenticity, while interrogating the forces responsible for the harms that result from mirroring, dividing, fracturing, or reproducing the self. Thus, you will not only study the doubling function of the doppelgänger as figure or literary device or thing—i.e. ghost, hidden self, automaton, mannequin, clone, avatar, etc., but also the systemic roots (i.e. roots in capitalism, in European aesthetics, in racism/classism/ sexism / homophobia) of the reproducible or fracturing processes that influence their appearance in painting, literature, fashion, TV, film, social media, gaming, and virtual reality.

Unit I: Internal Conflicts in Literary Doppelgängers & Doubles: Race/Ethnicity-Gender/Sexuality-Class-Psyche

In literature and film, the doppelgänger commonly functions as a figural or literary device representing either self-division/duality of identity or as a ghostly double (often misread as evil, frightening, or doomed) that shadows, twins, or mirrors the self. In this unit, youwill write about the divided/double self in a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, theories of “double consciousness” (W.E.B. Dubois) and “divided identity” (Braudy), and then apply these theories to literary doubles in Gilman Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Yellow Wall Paper,” Langston Hughes’s story “Passing,” either Oscar Wilde’s novella The Picture of Dorian Gray or Nella Larsen’s novella, Passing, and David Fincher’s Fight Club +/or Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Double Life of Veronique.

Unit 2: Capitalism’s Uncanny Doubles: Automata-Mannequins-Wax Figures

In the 18th century, humanity’s uncanny fascination with inanimate inhuman doubles of animate, living human bodies resulted n creating the automaton (an early form of robot), figures in wax museums, puppets/dolls, and tailor’s dummies. In modern consumer capitalism, we see the heirs of reproducible, idealized, commodifiable bodies in department store mannequins, fashion models, and often in ourselves as consumers of be beauty and fashion. In this unit, you will learn and write about the “uncanny body double” using the lens of Freud’s essay on “The Uncanny,” finding the uncanny in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman,” in excerpts from recent performances of Jacques Offenbach’s 19th-century opera, Tales of Hoffman, scholarly writing about mannequins, models, and wax figures, as well as poetry, fiction, and paintings about the uncanny doubling and self-division of models. Excerpts from the original Twilight Zone, David Fincher’s Fight Club (which relates to Units 1 + 2) and Michael Crichton’s fashion thriller, Looker provide cinematic representations of uncanny body doubles.

Unit 3: Doubles & Doppelgängers in Science – Science Fiction: Clones, Replicants, & Robots, Oh My!

The body doubles we find in scientific experiments—clones, replicants, robots, AI—capture human imagination and fascination in various forms of popular culture, such as science fiction and film. In this unit, you will read several chapters of Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, excerpts from articles about cloning, robots, and the “uncanny valley” as you start researching a self-selected topic related to any aspect of the course that most interests you. Films for this unit may include: Jordan Peele’s horror film, Us, Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner, and the first film in Lana & Lilly Wachowski’s series the Matrix.

Unit 4: Virtual Identity & Avatars: Digital Technology + Double/Multiple Identities & Universes

Computer games, virtual reality, and social media provide virtual worlds for us/our other selves, or help us create new, better, or alternative versions of ourselves: commonly referred to as “avatars.” In this short unit, we will read, discuss, and write about your interests and/or experiences and view Jeff Orlowski’s documentary, The Social Dilemma. The course culminates in a multimodal project (not an essay!) related to what you take away from course themes/issues.


ALL Class Meetings on Zoom

EXPO 1213/1223-003: T/R 9-10:15am     https://oklahoma.zoom.us/j/95299599536

EXPO 1213/1223-004: T/R 10:30-11:45am  https://oklahoma.zoom.us/j/97510854290

Zoom link for Office Hours + Writing Conferences: https://oklahoma.zoom.us/j/974700296


Double Dialogue

Who Wants To Be a Published Writer?

Dear D&D students, Consider submitting your work to the Expository Writing Program’s published annual collection of student writing, Brainstorm Magazine. The submission window will be opening soon . . . so stay tuned! To see what we publish,  review the writing of 2021 Expository Writing students most recently published in the 2022 issue of Brainstorm …

“On the Internet, We’re Always Famous” . . . as Uncanny Doubles of Ourselves . . . ?

The subtitle of this New Yorker article by Chris Hayes ponders the following question: “What happens when the experience of celebrity becomes universal?” How does this dovetail with Leo Braudy’s ideas of the duality of the famous? The self divided into (at least) two parts: the “talked of self”and the “unexpressed self”? What  happens if …

Unit Readings

Unit I: Internal Conflicts of Literary Doppelgängers & Doubles (Ethnicity-Race-Sexuality-Gender-Class-Psyche)

Unit II: Capitalism’s Uncanny Doubles: Automata-Wax Figures-Dolls- Mannequins

Unit III: Scientific Doubles: Clones, Robots, & Replicants, Oh My!

Unit IV: Technological & Virtual Doubles & Avatars