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The Art of Dreams

NEW PUBLICATION art of dreams

Barbara Hahn and Meike Werner (eds.)


Reflections and Representations

Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2016


Excerpt from the Introduction:

We all dream; we all share these strange experiences that infuse our nights. Manifold are the means of representing those nightly adventures: Songs and poems, paintings and films, dance and drama, novels and short stories. In all these different kinds of art, “dream” seems to be a name for experiences that need to be conveyed to our fellow humans. In the long history of coming to terms with dreams two different ways of delineating our forays into this nocturnal world prevail. One way is the attempt to interpret, to unveil a hidden meaning within dreams. The other way is to use the extraordinarily productive force to experiment with and test all the various representational means for our oneiric experiences.

Most of the essays collected in this book are of the latter sort. In the spring of 2006, scholars from a wide range of disciplines gathered at Vanderbilt University’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities in order to explore representations of dreams in different arts. While most of the essays concentrate on the twentieth century, which could be called the century of dreams, we have also tried to assemble texts that reflect upon the question of how a history of the representation of dreams might be conceived.

It is surprising how little we know about this history, though dreams are so prominent in the realm of each and every art. […] Surprising too, how little we know once we decide to leave one particular art behind and explore representations of dreams in a variety of arts. Very few books published over the last decades have tried to cross the boundaries between art and scholarship, between art and science. […] The precarious relation between artistic representations of dreams and theoretical approaches points to a deeper problem. Dreams dwell in two realms: They are part of the world of language as well as of the world of images, of imagination. Michel Foucault, in his introduction to Ludwig Binswanger’s Traum und Existenz [Dream and Existence], argued that psychoanalysis grasps the linguistic aspect but neglects the imagistic by translating everything into language; it only notices what can be rendered in words. Phenomenology, born contemporaneously with psychoanalysis, registers the imagistic but leaves it mute. In Foucault’s essay, written in 1952, reading dreams is still a task for which we seem to lack the appropriate theoretical tools[…]As all of these collections with their strengths and limitations confirm, it is unlikely that any approach will prove to be a royal road to the unconscious, and awakened historical discourse must strive mightily to match the inventiveness and power of the oneiric awareness that punctuates traditions of representation. Hence our own collection of essays can only claim to make a modest contribution to the perennial challenge of understanding written, danced, sung, filmed, painted dreams.

List of Content 

  • Barbara Hahn: The Art of Dreams. An Introduction
  • Gregg Horowitz: The Authority of Dreams
  • Pascal Grosse: Sensible Dreams: Irrationality and the Philosophy of the Mind in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
  • Theresia Birkenhauer: Representation of Dreams. Representation of Theatre
  • Marianne Schuller: The Logic of Writing. The Logic of Dreams. Reading Gottfried Keller’s Green Henry
  • Therese Ahern Augst: “And I had to write it to you.” Franziska zu Reventlow and Else Lasker-Schüler: Dreaming in Public
  • Barbara Hahn: “Chaque époque rêve la suivante.” Or How to Read a “Bilderatlas” of the Twentieth Century?
  • Davide Stimilli: Dream Bodies. Images of Sleeping. Images of Dreaming
  • Lucia Ruprecht: “Dance-Work” and the Art of Walking in Benjamin, Valéry, Rilke, Jensen and Nijinsky
  • Eduardo Cadava and Paola Cortés-Rocca: Dreaming of the Mother: Notes on Love and Photography
  • Lutz Koepnick: Dreamtime: The Specter of Cinema




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