Hors collection, 01/01/2010

Doubles and doppelgangers: religious meaning for the young and old

Philippe St-Germain
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The theme of the double has an illustrious history in various art forms, including literature, painting and cinema. The literary examples are especially revealing since some of the most important authors of the last few centuries have been interested in the double: among the most famous examples, we can cite Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Poe’s William Wilson (1839), Dostoyevsky’s The Double (1846), Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Maupassant’s The Horla (1887), Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Nabokov’s Despair (1936) and some of Borges’ and Cortazar’s best-known short stories1Pierre Jourde and Paolo Toronese offer a detailed overview of literary works in which the theme of the double is central: see Visages du double. Un thème littéraire, Paris: Nathan, 1996, p. 187-229.. The cinematic examples are just as interesting, notably because the very medium of cinema, being illusionistic in nature, draws on images that are considered as real —just as the prisoners of Plato’s allegory of the cave take the shadows on the wall as their own reality2I will insist on the link between the shadow  and the double  in section 1., many characters in works of art are subjected to the sudden apparition of beings that confound them.

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Cet article a d’abord été présenté dans le cadre du 33rd Denton Conferences on Implicit Religion, en mai 2010.

  • 1
    Pierre Jourde and Paolo Toronese offer a detailed overview of literary works in which the theme of the double is central: see Visages du double. Un thème littéraire, Paris: Nathan, 1996, p. 187-229.
  • 2
    I will insist on the link between the shadow  and the double  in section 1.
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