Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis

Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis

Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis

Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

What is a dream? Dreams are universal, but their perceived significance and conceptual framework change over time. A modern view of psychoanalysis, this book provides perspectives on the history of dreams and dream interpretation in western culture and thought.

Excerpt

Daniel Pick and Lyndal Roper

In the famous book that launched psychoanalysis in 1900, Freud set out a novel thesis about the scientific potential of dreams. Controversially and brilliantly, The Interpretation of Dreams drew upon - even as it profoundly recast - elements of folk-wisdom: belief in the psychic significance and the symbolic weight of even our most bizarre nocturnal visions. Freud observed differences in the way dreams had been understood across the ages - referring, for instance, to certain Victorian researches into ancient ideas - but he had other fish to fry, and thus declared that he would reluctantly have to leave these arcane matters aside. His interest here was not primarily historical. This was not to be an archaeology of forgotten cultural beliefs but, rather, the foundation for a new psychology based on the concept of repression. Psychoanalysis was to be centred on the exploration of the unconscious: a domain of the mind, he later wrote, in which the dictates of time did not operate. So much for history. Through the interpretation of dreams, Freud proposed to expose a fundamental psychic mystery and to reveal the dynamic nature of mental life itself, a dynamic that was itself partly unconscious.

Somewhat to the chagrin of historically minded readers, the dry tone of the early 'review' sections of The Interpretation of Dreams incline one to press 'fast-forward' (perhaps too fast) towards Freud's own lively material and arguments. His survey of all those time-bound Victorian predecessors has its points of interest - and its potential for arousing polemical debate as to principles of selection and exclusion - but it was clearly a preamble, presaging the cornucopia of ideas and examples that followed. The rich account of the author's process of dream analysis, the descriptions of condensation and displacement, the absorbing examples and remarkable theory of the mind offered in chapter seven of the book are generally remembered, whether appreciatively or critically; but what of the rest?

However captivating and universally significant Freud's psychological undertaking is judged to be, a myriad of historical questions soon reappear. Whilst some of these questions concern the genealogy of ideas, there are also many other varieties of historical speculation to which the text can give

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