On Dreams and Oneiric Writing in Modern and Contemporary Literature/Media
52nd NeMLA Convention
Philadelphia, PA | March 11 - 14, 2021
"Dreams are now a shortcut to banality," writes Walter Benjamin in the Gloss Dream Kitsch. Yet, neither Benjamin nor modern and contemporary writers stopped dreaming, writing, or theorizing about (their) dreams. The dream has been a motif in the history of literature, culture, art, and philosophy ever since. While the motif of literary figures’ dreams has been around since ancient times, oneiric writing and theories, however, are a phenomenon of literary modernism. The dream was established as a poetology and an aesthetic category in German Romanticism around 1800 that was carried on to modern literature from its beginnings to its postmodern varieties. These aesthetic dreams are hard to distinguish from the name Sigmund Freud and his Traumdeutung (1900). Avant-garde literature believed in psychoanalysis, but the second half of the 20th century can rather be understood as a deconstruction of the Freudian psychoanalysis. In the course of the (post)structural development of psychoanalysis by Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault’s or Gilles Deleuze / Félix Guattari’s, Freud's dream interpretation is no longer tenable. Freud’s via regia to the unconsciousness is revisited as an ideological construction.
The session asks whether a discussion of dreams in literature, media, and philosophy is still current, relevant, and how contemporary notions of the dream are related to its discursive history. In this session, scholars are invited to present their studies of the dream or dream writing in modern and contemporary literature/media. What (political) desire does a dream imply? What notions of truth or falsity, consciousness or subconsciousness, and fact or fiction does the dream refer to? How is the dream (re-)narrated and how is a dream a narrative model for fiction itself?