Paris Conference, 19-20 Sept. 2014, "The night of the senses : Dreams and sensory illusion in early-modern England and France"

full name / name of organization: 
Line Cottegnies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3

Epistémè-PEARL (EA 4398 : PRISMES)
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3
Institut du Monde anglophone
5 rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, 75006 Paris, France

International Conference, 19-20 September 2014

"The night of the senses : Dreams and sensory illusion in early-modern England and France"

Keynote speakers : Mary Baine Campbell (Brandeis University), Florence Dumora (Paris Diderot).

Dreams have long been a subject of intense philosophical speculation, from Plato or Cicero to Descartes, and Locke, as an ontological and metaphysical threat. They were subject to the scrutiny of both civil and religious authorities. Yet dreams are also the stuff literature is made of, from the dreams of divination in Homer to the 'dream visions', a central genre of medieval literature which finds its way into other forms in the early modern period. They were a favourite topos of the theatre of the baroque period which shows a fascination for the reversibility of dreaming and waking – as in Calderon's La Vida es sueño or Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream ('Are you sure / That we are awake? It seems to me / That yet we sleep, we dream?'). This conference will take its cue from the realization that it is impossible to study dreams per se, and that we can only analyze the narration of dream - a paradox pointed out by Anthony Grafton among others. We will therefore focus on dream narrations in early-modern texts to study the way in which sensory illusions, or stimulation, are described, and configured. The question is not only to interrogate dream theory, or what authors expressly believed about the meaning of dreams, but also to study the role of the senses in the dream narrations, by focusing specifically on how the texts describe sensory illusion, or sensory deprivation. What happens to the senses in the night of the senses? We thus hope to replace the study of the dream narration within the wider history of the senses and sensation.

We invite proposals for 25-minute papers that address the issues of the senses and sensory illusion in relations of dreams, or dream visions or prophecies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Interdisciplinary approaches will be welcome. Papers may be given in French or in English. A selection of articles will be published in a special issue of the peer-reviewed electronic journal

Please send abstracts of 200 words with a short biographical note about the authors should be sent to the organizers by 31 March 2014.

Contact : Line Cottegnies ( and Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3