Dream Cultures: Explorations in the Comparative History of Dreaming

Dream Cultures: Explorations in the Comparative History of Dreaming

Dream Cultures: Explorations in the Comparative History of Dreaming

Dream Cultures: Explorations in the Comparative History of Dreaming

Synopsis

This volume offers a comparative, cross-cultural history of dreams. The essays examine a wide range of texts concerning dreams, as culled from a rich variety of religious contexts: China, India, the Americas, classical Greek and Roman antiquity, early Christianity, and medieval Judaism and Islam. Taken together, these pieces constitute an important first step toward a new understanding of the differences and similarities between the ways in which different cultures experience the universal yet utterly unique world of dreams.

Excerpt

David Shulman and Guy G. Stroumsa

1

This volume attempts to draw out some elements of a comparative, cross-cultural history of dreams. We treat dreaming as a cultural act, for while we by no means assume that we can make direct contact with the dream itself, in any of our texts, there is no doubt that the dream report and all subsequent interpretation and decoding are expressive of culturally specific themes, patterns, tensions, and meanings. Every dream culture articulates issues and makes assumptions, implicitly or otherwise, about the relatively private or public nature of dreams; the conditions in which dreams may reveal the future (or the past); the boundaries between the individual and society; the composition of the dreaming subject; and so on. To tell one's dream--first, perhaps, to oneself, then to another (perhaps a professional interpreter), and finally to still wider circles--is always an overdetermined act or statement, at once situating the self in relation to a rich universe of cultural meanings and implied metaphysical intuitions and creating, or re-creating, that same universe from within.

The essays included in this volume were initially presented at a workshop held at the Jagdschloss Hubertusstock in Markt Brandenburg in September, 1995, under the auspices of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam and the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The workshop was held exactly one hundred years after Freud finished the redaction of his Traumdeutung (although the book appeared only in 1900). Yet as Kulturforscher, we sought to understand the significance of dreams in different religious contexts in a way rather alien to the psychoanalytical tradition. Our primary assumption--that the place and role of dreams, and the very status of dreaming, are strongly influenced by cultural traditions and religious attitudes--led us to search for conspicuous differences in . . .

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