A doppelganger is a literary archetype of a character who meets his or her apparent double, with plot developments following.
The plot and character device of "twinning" is widespread in all literature but appears often in fairy tales, myths, and gothic literature.
Famous texts exemplifying the doppelganger:
Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly (1800): Edgar & Clithero
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818, 1823): Victor Frankenstein & the Creature
Edgar Allan Poe, William Wilson (1839) and others
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Double: A Petersburg Poem (novella, 1846)
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847): Jane & Bertha
Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
Henry James, The Jolly Corner (1908)
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer (1909)
Stephen King, The Dark Half (1989)
Darren Aronovsky, director. The Black Swan (2010)
Louise Erdrich, The Round House (2012): Linden Lark and Linda Lark Wishkob (twins)
Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1847) has cross-generational twinning, as Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff appear cross-twinned by Hareton Earnshaw and Cathy Linton.
A pop-culture example with a different spin: superheroes often have "alter egos":
Superman / Clark Kent
Batman / Bruce Wayne
Thor / Donald Blake
Final exam excerpt from LITR 4232 American Renaissance question: Describe the characteristics and significance of the Gothic . . .
When one thinks of Gothic, Poe
is often the first writer that comes to mind. . . . Poe often wrote with the
traditional Gothic setting, Europe. However, his use of the Gothic as a mode
extends past settings or establishing an attitude in the reader. . . . When Poe
includes a Gothic space in his writing, for example a house, it
usually parallels or corresponds with the unconscious mind of the reader
or the characters in the works. In "The Fall of the House of Usher"
we see that the house has vacant eye-like windows and we are presented with
the fact that the house is identified along with the family. This
technique of twinning is another common occurrence in the Gothic. Once
this convention is identified, the reader can see that whatever the family is
going will be reflected on the house and likewise. Twinning also appears
with the Roderick and Madeleine twins. . . . [DG 2001]
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn: A ghostly double of a living person that haunts its living counterpart.
http://doppelgangerdefinition.com/ : The German word ‘Doppelganger' meaning ‘double walker' is derived from the German word ‘doppel' meaning ‘double' and ‘ganger' meaning ‘walker'. Doppelganger is, therefore, an apparition of oneself or someone whom we are aquainted with and even someone whom we have never met before. . . . [T]he word is used as a synonym for ‘alter ego', ‘evil twin', ‘clone', ‘duplicate' ‘mirror image' and such other words.
Northrop Frye et al, The Harper Handbook to Literature :
About.com stories of (more or less) actual doppelgangers
Examples of doppelganger usage in a variety of media:
Pop-culture examples of Gothic Twinning
Star Trek: Kirk meets Evil Kirk
In the original Star Trek series, episode #33 (1967) titled "Mirror,Mirror," a transporter malfunction swaps the commanders of the Starship Enterprise with their evil counterparts in a parallel univers.
Bewitched: Samantha & cousin Serena
(fair lady / dark lady)
More recent nominees?