Dream and Culture: An Anthropological Study of the Western Intellectual Tradition

Dream and Culture: An Anthropological Study of the Western Intellectual Tradition

Dream and Culture: An Anthropological Study of the Western Intellectual Tradition

Dream and Culture: An Anthropological Study of the Western Intellectual Tradition

Synopsis

"Parman contends that in order to understand dreams we must first of all understand the cultural context within which they are expressed. Certainly we cannot 'interpret' a dream without some preliminary grasp of indigenous notions of psychology, cosmology, and epistemology. Readers are therefore introduced to everything from classical notions of the self through the modern schools of rationalism and psychoanalysis. This book brilliantly shows the vast shifts in Western presuppositions regarding dreams. Parman's insistence on an anthropological approach to dreams constitutes a healthy antidote to the anarchronistic tendency to foist the epistemology of contemporary psychoanalysis back onto earlier periods." Choice

Excerpt

The dream is the ultimate cultural Rorschach. Universal in occurrence among humans and other mammals, it stems from a nonsymbolic surge of arousal from the brainstem that splays the cerebrum with fireworks. in humans these random fireworks are interpreted by the neocortex and given symbolic shape, in both idiosyncratic and culturally shared patterns. the dream is like an onion, constantly being peeled, but with endless layers. This book is about the epistemological layers of the dream in Western culture.

As used in this book, "Western culture" refers to epistemological structures of thought and meaning that are identified today as central to and distinctive of what is variously identified as "Western civilization," "the West," "the Western tradition."

I am using the term "culture" not in the sense of an ethnographic description of the holistic, integrated way of life of a particular ethnic, regional, or national population (as is usually described in ethnographies), but in a way that is more closely linked to the tradition of A. L. Kroeber (1944), Eric Wolf (1982), Michel Foucault (1972), and others, as dominant patterns of knowledge, configurations, world views, central themes, paradigms, and epistemes.

The patterns of "Western culture" were created in the philosophical writings of the Greeks and Romans; the writings of the Christian Church fathers; the literary, scientific, and artistic discourse that has developed, especially after the introduction of the printing press, from the Renaissance to the present day. These patterns serve as paradigms or vehicles to explain what it means to be human and to interpret the place of humankind in the universe. Despite local variations in customs, class, language, economics, and politics . . .

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