‘To see oursels as ithers see us’: Textual, individual and national other-selves in Under the Skin
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Munro, R. (2020) ‘To see oursels as ithers see us’: Textual, individual and national other-selves in Under the Skin. In: Stewart, M. & Munro, R. (eds.) Intercultural screen adaptation: British and global case studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 138-164.
In Robert Burns’ To a Louse  (2001), the narrator reflects upon the sight of a louse upon the head of a pompous woman in a church. The host body is unaware of its alien invader, and Burns’ narrator cannot help but reflect upon the impropriety of the louse marauding upon its aristocratic body. By the end of the poem the entire congregation of the church titters at the haughty woman with the louse on her head, leading Burns to reflect: O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!  (2001: 133) Burns’ poem is a call for greater self-awareness and objectivity, a desire that we can view our affectations and pretensions from a distance. The congregation has gained this at the expense of the woman with the louse in her hair. They have gained a little greater insight into their selves by their look at an ‘other’, the haughty woman, whose lack of self-awareness causes their mirth. In this chapter I examine the film Under the Skin (Glazer 2013) which performs a meditation on selves, others and other-selves in its depiction of an alien predator in the form of a human female who begins to explore its (her) potential to adopt a human, and female, consciousness with fatal consequences. I will begin by exploring Hegel’s work on self-consciousness and his dialectic on self and other which, I argue, is one level to read the film’s narrative concern as outlined above.