‘The Haunting Within’: Professor explores the duplicity of doppelgangers | CSUF Messages – CSUF Messages | Episode Movies



When zombies roam cemeteries and vampires steal through sleepy towns, the menace is obvious, but not all hauntings involve spooky ghosts and creepy horrors.

It is much more difficult to escape from the monster that comes from within.

Adam Golub, Professor of American Studies at Cal State Fullerton, is interested in analyzing these inner monsters known as doppelgangers or “shadow selves.” Similar to traditional monsters, doppelgangers can appear in a variety of forms – a robot clone, a doppelganger from another dimension, or an alien body thief, but they always reflect a version of the original.

“Monsters represent something that doesn’t belong in the community: a zombie, a vampire, a witch, King Kong, Godzilla, or Slenderman. These are monsters that come from somewhere else. They are outsiders trying to invade, disrupt and haunt our lives,” Golub said. “The doppelganger is a monster that is not separate from us. It’s a monster that’s part of us.”

Golub’s new book project, America’s Shadow: A Cultural History of the Doppelganger, examines how doppelgangers have evolved since they first became part of the American Monster Mash scene in the early 1800s.

From Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 short story William Wilson to modern day films like Netflix’s Living with Yourself starring Paul Rudd, Golub wants to understand why these tales have stood the test of time and what they are about betray the broader fears and concerns of society.

“Monsters are fake, but the fears they embody are real, and how we respond to those fears can have dramatic consequences for how we view ourselves and others,” Golub said.

Throughout history, the doppelganger narrative has evolved into an interdisciplinary concept that appears in multiple forms of expression, including literature, film, television, poetry, music, pop culture, religion, folklore, crime, and politics.

Before doubles made their way into American culture, people feared sea monsters, witches, ghosts, and demons. By the late 1830s, their fears shifted to “the hauntings within,” Golub explained.

To understand the genesis of these stories, Golub examined the cultural context of the period, looking for historical clues to explain why society was vulnerable to the idea of ​​duplication and fragmented identities.

Golub shared that by the 1840s, photography allowed people to “look at themselves” entirely from the outside. This technological advance brought the idea of ​​the “double self” to the forefront of people’s lives.

Adam Golub
Adam Golub, Professor of American Studies

“There was also a growing fascination with psychology and consciousness during this period. Americans were interested in the idea of ​​dual consciousness, the idea that the human mind has a divided quality,” Golub said.

One of the look-alike’s early historical appearances occurred in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln allegedly claimed to have seen two versions of himself in the mirror prior to his re-election as President. With America on the brink of civil war, Golub said the story symbolized society’s fears of identity and duplicity as the nation faced the possibility of dividing its existence into North and South.

Today, double narratives are a significant part of Hollywood feature films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo and Philip Kaufman’s science fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The doppelganger trope started with well-known doppelgangers like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as Superman and Bizarro also found their way into pop culture.

His research also follows look-alikes into the technological age of the 21st century, with digital duplicates appearing on the internet. He said some of the most well-known forms of digital doubles are the carefully curated personas that people create for social media.

Looking at social feeds filled with their best moments and accomplishments, Golub said a person might wonder, “Which version is the real me? What achievement is my real self? Is my Instagram double having a better life than me?’”

“The digital culture makes us all feel a bit fragmented in our lives. We all navigate and negotiate these different online personas.”

Golub’s interdisciplinary research into the cultural relevance of doppelgangers will continue with the completion of his book manuscript next year. America’s Shadow: A Cultural History of the Doppelganger will join his previously published works on monsters, fan culture, true crime, and popular culture.

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